Red Sox: Chris Sale could save team from using fourth starter in ALDS

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 21: Chris Sale
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 21: Chris Sale /

Chris Sale’s bold statement about wanting to pitch on short rest could save the Boston Red Sox from needing four starters in the ALDS.

Chris Sale is ready to leave it all on the table for the Boston Red Sox this postseason.

The talented lefty knows how important he is to this pitching staff and he’s eager to live up to his ace reputation. He’ll take the ball in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros aiming to steal home-field advantage to shift momentum in Boston’s favor.

Which game he takes the mound after that could change the outlook of this series. If it were up to Sale, the sooner he can pitch again the better. The Cy Young candidate told reporters on Wednesday that he’s willing to pitch on three days rest if necessary, boldly proclaiming that he’ll pitch “til my arm falls off.”

Bringing Sale back to pitch on three days rest could be a game-changer for the Red Sox. It means he would conceivably be available to pitch in Game 4 on Monday, assuming the ALDS lasts that long.

If Sale were to pitch Game 4, the Red Sox could go back to Game 2 starter Drew Pomeranz for a potential Game 5. Thanks to an off day between Games 4 and 5, Pomeranz would be working on his normal four days rest in that scenario.

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This would save the Red Sox from the unenviable decision of trotting out Rick Porcello or Doug Fister in a playoff game. The former led the league in losses and home runs allowed this season while the latter was scooped up off the scrap heap mid-season. Neither instills much confidence in a potential must-win situation against a loaded Astros lineup.

Manager John Farrell has yet to confirm who will start Game 3 but the assumption here is that it will be Eduardo Rodriguez. There isn’t much comfort in turning to E-Rod either after he was lit up for five runs in less than two innings of work in his last start against Houston. Despite that meltdown, Rodriguez posted a solid 3.33 ERA in September and was more dependable than the other options at Boston’s disposal.

Even if Farrell gives the nod to someone else in Game 3, Sale or Pomeranz could end up starting four of the possible five games in this series. That would be a tremendous boost to a Red Sox team that can list thin rotation depth among the questions lingering over them entering the postseason.

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Before we get too excited about the notion of Sale starting Game 4, we should note that Farrell has yet to confirm he would allow his ace to pitch on three days rest. Sale hasn’t done it all season and pitched on three days rest only once in his career. That was way back in 2012 when he lasted only five innings and allowed three earned runs.

Working in Sale’s favor is that he’ll enter the postseason with extra rest. He hasn’t pitched since September 26, giving him eight days of rest before Game 1. In 24 career starts with 6+ days of rest Sale owns a 1.88 ERA.

We aren’t likely to get any indication from the manager about his plans until after Game 3. If the Red Sox are facing elimination in Game 4 then Farrell will presumably be more open to bringing Sale back to pitch early. If Boston holds a 2-1 lead in the series then there’s less reason to push Sale knowing that he can use him on five days rest in Game 5 if necessary. If the series ends in a three-game sweep then it’s a moot point. Farrell has no reason to open himself up to criticism by making a public decision that ultimately may not matter either way.

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We’ll have to wait to see how the first few games pan out but knowing that the possibility exists that the Red Sox can ditch one of their struggling back of the rotation starters in the ALDS should give fans renewed confidence heading into this series.