Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Chris Sale has been sent for an MRI after experiencing soreness in the elbow that bothered him last season.
Here we go again. Just when the Boston Red Sox thought they were out of the woods with Chris Sale‘s ailing elbow, the lefty appears to have hit another setback.
Interim manager Ron Roenicke revealed to the media on Tuesday that Sale has been sent for an MRI after experiencing soreness in his left elbow.
Sale was making encouraging progress on his road to recovery when he threw a live batting practice on Sunday. While it initially seemed as though he made it through the session unscathed, the soreness he felt the next day raised some red flags. This is the same elbow that put Sale on the shelf last August and we haven’t seen him take the mound in a game since.
Roenicke admitted there was concern for his ace but the club has no further information to add at this time. The MRI images will be sent to Dr. James Andrews for further review, after which case we should get some clarity on Sale’s status.
The mere mention of Dr. Andrews is enough to cause waves of panic to wash over Red Sox Nation. The renowned surgeon is often linked to cases of Tommy John surgery so his involvement often hints at the worst-case scenario.
That may not be the case here though. Sale was already a patient of Dr. Andrews when his elbow was initially treated last year. Surgery wasn’t recommended at the time and Sale was given the green light to begin throwing again months ago. Sending the MRI results to Dr. Andrews may simply be due to his familiarity with Sale’s treatment rather than a sign that surgery is necessary after all.
Any potential setback will have the Red Sox holding their breaths. Sale was already expected to begin the season on the injured list after a bout with pneumonia delayed his spring routine. The Red Sox are adamant about giving him proper time to build up his arm in order to avoid the type of disastrous start he endured early last season after a light spring training workload. Now we have to wonder if he’ll appear in a spring training game at all this year, delaying his season debut indefinitely.
If surgery is on the table, we can kiss Sale’s 2020 season good-bye, along with the Red Sox playoff aspirations.
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Boston is already struggling to fill out a full rotation. Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez are the only locks to open the season in the rotation. There are a few pitchers battling it out for the No. 5 spot in camp but the Red Sox may lean toward utilizing the opener strategy instead of handing a starting spot to any of those underwhelming options.
The expectation that Sale would miss a few starts to begin the season has led the Red Sox to toy with the idea of using two openers to navigate the first few weeks of the season. That plan may not be feasible if Sale is out significantly longer. That would force the Red Sox to either take their lumps with an under-qualified spot starter filling the void indefinitely or encourage them to hit the trade market.
The latter option would be preferred although it’s not as if the Red Sox farm system is overflowing with blue chip assets. The prospects they received in the Dodgers deal provide a boost to their trade chips but it’s not enough to acquire an ace to replace Sale. It’s more likely that they would seek a cheaper back of the rotation option who would be more reliable than their internal options.
Losing Sale for any significant stretch, perhaps the entire season, would be a huge blow to Boston’s playoff chances. We haven’t hit that point yet though. Let’s cross that bridge if we get to it, which we won’t know until the MRI results have been confirmed. Our fingers are hovering over the panic button but don’t press it yet.