Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale reflects on a difficult offseason

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 03, 2019 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 9-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 03, 2019 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 9-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Between battling pneumonia in Spring Training, getting Tommy John surgery, and the prospect of the upcoming MLB season being played in isolation, Chris Sale has had a difficult offseason.

Chris Sale has had a rough go of if over the last year. Coming out of spring training last March he and the rest of the Red Sox pitchers were under-prepared thanks to former manager Alex Cora taking it a bit too easy on them. Sale didn’t look right from the get go, with diminished velocity and poor results on the mound. Fans and media alike wondered if he was still feeling the lingering effects of the ailments that slowed him down at the end of 2018.

We got our answer in August 2019 when he was shut down for good with an elbow ailment. This was concerning since it was his shoulder that had bothered him previously at the end of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. After resting from September 2019 until the start of spring training in February 2020, fans and the Red Sox themselves hoped that Sale would be refreshed, healed, and ready to pitch.

Instead, as we all know Sale successfully underwent Tommy John surgery on March 30. He’ll miss the entire 2020 season (if there even is one) and at least half of the 2021 season recovering and rehabbing his arm. Speaking to the press this week, Sale touched on a variety of topics related to his difficult offseason in addition to his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Pivoting to discussing the illness he was battling when he arrived in Florida in February, Sale wonders with hindsight whether he actually had COVID-19 and not just the standard flu and pneumonia he and his doctors thought he had.

After telling reporters the thought has crossed his mind, he discussed wanting to possibly get tested for antibodies to see if he actually had the disease which has caused a worldwide pandemic since its emergence in China in January of this year. He didn’t seem to think he actually did since nobody else in his family or at JetBlue Park came down with it, but he did mention that the thought has “definitely crossed my mind.”

"“I actually want to see. … It’s crazy to look at my symptoms and think about the symptoms of people that have the COVID-19 virus and some of the similarities,” Sale said, per the Boston Herald. “We may never know, but I’m definitely hoping not [that he infected anyone else].”"

We may never know for sure, although Sale said that even though he tested negative for the flu there’s no way to know if it was COVID-19 since the test kits for the virus weren’t available at the time and that he thinks “it might be a stretch.”

Staying with COVID-19 and its impact on the 2020 baseball season, Sale shared his thoughts on whether he and other players would be willing to play in isolated locations in empty ballparks to salvage what they can of the season. MLB has floated the idea and is in discussions with the MLBPA players union and health officials to determine the viability of this approach.

MLB’s plan calls for teams to isolate themselves at spring training facilities in Arizona and play the season there without contact with their families and friends, in essence quarantining players in order to allow them to play. Discussions are ongoing, but Sale had some experience playing in empty ballparks when he was with the Chicago White Sox. During the Baltimore riots of 2015, the White Sox and Orioles played a game at Camden Yards with no fans in attendance.

Sale offered his memories of the experience, saying that:

"“It was actually a really weird experience. The game was way faster, I can tell you that, but it was different. It was a weird feeling having nobody in the stands, but hey, sometimes you’ve got to adapt for the greater good of what’s going on around you and that’s the situation we were in. Is it ideal? I would say no.”"

Sale also didn’t sound thrilled with the prospect of being isolated away from his family for potentially five months, saying that “I don’t know if I could look at my kids just through a screen for four or five months. Same thing goes with my wife.”

He’s not alone among players who have doubts and hesitations about the feasibility of MLB’s plan, although he did offer the perspective that people have always been able to adapt to difficult situations and this may be yet another case of having to do so.

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However, since Sale is recovering from Tommy John surgery, he luckily would not be impacted by these extreme measures anyway, assuming MLB and the players union actually go through it. Chris Sale has had quite the challenging offseason and it will surely be one he’ll never forget, even long after his playing days are over.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.