Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale is coming off of a season filled with injuries and bad outings, but he can prove the doubters wrong in 2020.
Spring training is underway and things are beginning to heat up for the Red Sox in Fort Myers. One man that’s chomping at the bit to get the regular season underway is lefty ace Chris Sale. The head of the starting rotation has had some ups and downs this spring but it looks like those days are in the rearview mirror.
Red Sox Nation was holding their breath when it was reported that the southpaw was going to miss some time thanks to a case of pneumonia. Luckily that illness passed and his pre-season process has commenced as the Grapefruit League has kicked off.
We’ve seen fellow starter Nathan Eovaldi get his first taste of spring yesterday while Eduardo Rodriguez is slated for Wednesday. The Red Sox have been taking their time with getting Sale on the bump for his first start thanks to the pneumonia and his injury rehab. With every passing day though we’ve been seeing some pretty serious bullpen sessions and it looks like he’s ready to get to work.
This feels entirely different than last spring where Alex Cora and his team held off on working the starters until later in the preseason. This would ultimately set them well behind their contemporaries around the league and the staff suffered greatly.
Interim manager Ron Roenicke has been getting his guys regular work through bullpen sessions and batting practice leading up to games beginning. Roenicke spoke about the plan for The lefty this spring and that he’ll begin doing more bullpen work this week while working towards his first start.
"“It’ll be a bullpen, but it’ll be an extended bullpen,” said interim manager Ron Roenicke. “He’ll throw, probably take a couple minute breather and then get up and throw again. It’s kind of an up-and-down for him.”"
There’s never been any question about Sale’s toughness and heart but it’s tough to deny any doubters after 2019. He missed the final chunk of the 2018 season and was barely present for the World Series run that year due to shoulder issues and a stomach ailment. Last season would be even worse and he never quite got out of the starting blocks.
Eventually, he’d be shut down early and luckily for Red Sox Nation, he avoided the dreaded Tommy John surgery. A winter full of rest and rehab now has the ace ready to get back to work and get back to mowing down batters.
Opening Day is usually a no-brainer as the top guy in the rotation always gets the call to begin the season. Since they had to push back Sale’s spring regimen it was brought into question whether or not he’d be able to take the ball, he never questioned it though.
"“I think I’ll be ready for Opening Day, but I don’t make the rules,” Sale said. “I’m a competitor. If the season started tomorrow, I’d tell you I could go out there and throw five or six innings. But the guys in my corner might have something different to say.”"
Like I said, his heart and grit have never been called into question during his career and it likely won’t be something to start now. If he feels he’s healthy and the training staff gives the green light then I’ve got zero doubt he’ll be on the bump to kick-off the 2020 season.
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This is an incredibly important year for the southpaw as he received a massive extension ahead of 2019 and then disappeared for most of the year. He had his high spots, a pair of immaculate innings, but it was mostly a nightmare for him. A new season and a new opportunity to show Red Sox Nation why Dave Dombrowski gave so much to get him to Boston, and why he’s worth every penny are weeks away.
I can imagine Sale having a clipping of his 6-11/4.40/147.1/1.086 line from last year taped to his locker so he sees it every day. That’s the kind of competitor that he is and having that motivation staring him in the face each morning, afternoon, and night will only add fuel to the fire. If that arm is as healthy as it seems at this point then the opposition needs to get ready for disappointment when Sale is on the mound.
Another factor that I believe will motivate him in having a strong 2020 campaign is the fact that the light will be shining even brighter. When he was slumping last year he at least had David Price and Rick Porcello around him to also take some of the attention, that’s not the case anymore. Yeah, there’s still Eovaldi and E-Rod but Sale is the lone big-dog on the block now.
There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide and in my opinion, that’s exactly what he wants. This season will be massively important to his future in Boston because if there’s another misfire in 2020, I wouldn’t put it past the Red Sox to try and move him. The Sox are straying away from big salaries as of now, just ask Mookie Betts and David Price. His massive contract weighs heavily on the budget so he needs to perform to earn his keep.