Boston Red Sox: Five bold predictions for 2021 season
Red Sox lefty Chris Sale finishes top-10 on Cy Young ballot
The Red Sox expect Chris Sale to return to their rotation next season but his timeline remains a bit murky. We know he won’t be available for Opening Day and we can essentially rule out the lefty making anywhere close to 30 starts or 200 innings. So how can a starting pitcher who isn’t able to carry a heavy workload going to be in contention for the Cy Young award?
We don’t have to look far to find precedent. Sale’s dominant 2018 season was interrupted by a stint on the disabled list, sidelining him for a significant chunk of the second half before he returned in September for a few bullpen appearances. Sale was back in the rotation for the playoffs but he finished the regular season with only 27 starts and 158 innings. Missing that much time might have cost Sale the hardware but he still managed to finish fourth on the AL Cy Young ballot.
Some projections have Sale returning around mid-season with a June debut viewed as a conservative estimate. By all accounts, he’s progressing well in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery and there’s growing optimism that Sale could be ready sooner than expected.
Sale will hit the one-year mark since his surgery shortly before Opening Day. One year is a reasonable time frame for recovery from this injury but he’ll still need time to ramp up his arm with minor league rehab starts or simulated games before he can join the Red Sox rotation.
That still doesn’t rule out the possibility of a May return. If Sale can squeeze in 25 starts and approach 150 innings, that should be enough to earn some Cy Young votes. Assuming, of course, that he’s back to pre-injury form. That’s hardly a guarantee but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it happens.