Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Chris Sale confirmed he is healthy and the elbow issues that plagued him last season are behind him.
If Chris Sale isn’t on the mound for the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day, it won’t be due to concerns about the ailing elbow that forced him to sit out the end of last season.
The lefty had his routine interrupted by a bout with pneumonia but the six or seven throwing sessions he had over the winter were enough to convince him that his elbow has recovered. Sale met with the media Sunday morning to reveal that he’s over the hump in terms of the illness and to put to rest any concerns about the health of his elbow.
"“Good, really good,” Sale responded to questions about how his elbow felt. “I feel better than I have in a long time, actually.”"
Sale’s status has been a lingering concern all offseason. The few sporadic updates we received were positive but the shadows of doubt wouldn’t be cast away until he showed up to camp ready to pitch.
Many feared the worst when weeks passed without an update during a stressful offseason. He finally had his long-anticipated follow-up visit with Dr. James Andrews in late November and was given the green light to begin a throwing program. It’s been mostly radio silence since then in what fans would deem as a “no news is bad news” situation.
Perhaps those concerns were overblown. According to Sale, “no one was every worried” that Tommy John surgery was on the table. Dr. Andrews was confident that the PRP injection he administered would be sufficient to heal Sale’s elbow and it turned out he was right. Go figure, the best surgeon in the country had a better idea of how Sale’s elbow would respond to treatment than a mob of anxious Red Sox fans.
Now that he’s been given a clean bill of health, we’ll see if Sale can return to his dominant form. There were doubts last year when the lefty struggled through the worst season of his career, going 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA.
Those uncharacteristic results need to be put in perspective though. A light spring training workload left all of the Red Sox starters unprepared for the regular season and they each got shelled in their first few turns through the rotation.
Sale settled down from this rough patch to rip off a 12-game stretch where he looked like himself again. From April 23 – June 21, Sale owned a 2.44 ERA, 14.4 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9.
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Then the wheels fell off again. Sale was lit up for five earned runs in three consecutive starts and posted a 5.88 ERA over his final nine outings before he was placed on the injured list for the remainder of the season.
Was injury to blame for this tailspin? Sale hadn’t revealed that anything was wrong until he went on the IL but that doesn’t mean his elbow hadn’t been barking before that point.
The early season woes can be explained by not being given proper time to build up his pitch count and velocity and we can at least question if he was battling elbow soreness while getting knocked around in some of his starts later in the season. The stretch in between, a sample that covers half his starts, proved he’s still capable of being an elite pitcher.
A healthy Sale is a productive Sale. He says he feels great and there’s little reason to doubt him. He’s scheduled to throw off a mound tomorrow which will be one step closer to his triumphant return. The illness didn’t cost him too much time so with a relatively normal spring training, Sale should be ready to reclaim his place at the ace of this staff.