Chris Sale is confident that he’s recovered from his elbow injury and will be ready to pitch when the Boston Red Sox report to spring training.
Chris Sale is eager to put last season’s nightmare behind him and move on to his bounce-back campaign. The Boston Red Sox haven’t seen their ace take the mound since August when he was shut down with a troubling case of elbow inflammation and many were worried that the ailment would spill into next season. Those concerns were mostly put to rest when Dr. James Andrews gave Sale the green light to begin throwing last month.
The lefty still has a long road ahead of him in his recovery but he appears to be back on track. Sale told The Naples Daily News during a charity event at Florida Gulf Coast University that he has “no doubt” he’ll be ready for spring training.
"“We’re progressing really well,” Sale told the Daily News. “We’re about to start ramping up (throwing) now so everything has been great. I’m in a good spot.”"
The Red Sox have been understandably cautious with the left-hander but this encouraging update reveals there have been no setbacks since he was cleared to throw.
Sale is coming off the worst season of his career when he went 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA. His strikeout rate remained among the elite but the uptick in his walk and home run rates point to an uncharacteristic lack of command.
Elbow soreness may have contributed to his disappointing performance prior to landing on the injured list but Sale battled inconsistency long before any health concerns. He struggled out of the gate while working with reduced velocity, going 0-5 with a brutal 6.30 ERA through his first six starts.
His fastball eventually picked up steam and Sale began to look like himself again for a stretch until falling apart in the dog days of summer.
The slow start can be attributed to poor planning rather than injury. Manager Alex Cora intentionally limited the workload of his starting pitchers during spring training. The additional rest was supposed to keep their arms fresh for another deep postseason run but the idea backfired when the rotation was woefully unprepared to begin the regular season. Boston dropped eight games on an 11-game road trip to open the season, digging themselves into a hole they never climbed out of.
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Pitchers take time to build up for the regular season. They can’t show up on the first day firing 100 pitches over seven innings. The exhibition schedule allows for this gradual innings increase so that the rotation can hit the ground running when the games begin to count.
The Red Sox failed to account for this but Cora won’t make the same mistake again. This is why it’s so encouraging that Sale claims he’ll be ready to begin spring training on time. Boston can’t afford for him to fall behind schedule. Sale returning to form is one of the keys to returning to the postseason.
The outlook on Sale was bleak following a disastrous season that ended with him on the shelf. This created a perception that he was damaged goods and his $145 million extension was a bust before it kicked in.
Sale probably wouldn’t have been lit up in the early going if a normal spring routine had prepared him appropriately. His season wouldn’t have gone completely off the rails if he wasn’t injured. Well, he’s healthy now and expects to follow his normal spring schedule.
We won’t be able to breathe a sigh of relief until we see Sale blowing fastballs by over-matched hitters and getting them to chase his wicked slider. We’re not out of the woods yet but every indication points toward Sale returning to form next season.