Red Sox: Intriguing options with Chis Sale as possible opener

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 30: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox reacts with pitching coach Dave Bush after throwing a simulated game before a game against the Kansas City Royals on June 30, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 30: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox reacts with pitching coach Dave Bush after throwing a simulated game before a game against the Kansas City Royals on June 30, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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Chris Sale will soon return to the Red Sox but in what capacity?

The Boston Red Sox world awaits the return of Chris Sale as a baseball version of Operation Overlord. Sale’s long and arduous road to return is well noted. FanSided’s Kurt Mensching covers it in detail. Sale’s latest foray is a short stint against live hitters. My assumption is the mummification process for facing dead hitters is daunting and a bit on the morbid side.

Just what do you do with Sale when the green light is given? As Marcellus Wallace said to Butch in Pulp Fiction: “Pride only hurts, it never helps.” And in the case of Sale, there is a world of pride, competitiveness, and the potential for hurt. Sale will be on a limited pitching diet. If pride interferes then the hurt could follow, but with the level of financial investment, Sale will be monitored and my assumption is he will be responsible enough to follow the regime directives.

Sale will be limited as he builds up his arm strength, confidence, and stamina. The magic number for pitchers is pitch count and Sale may start in the 45 range. Then what? This is the next man standing or pitching territory. I would open with Sale and then follow with Garrett Whitlock.

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The Red Sox have percolating in their collective pitching mindset as putting Whitlock into the rotation. The rotation is as shaky as riding on the pot hole infested roads in Massachusetts in a vehicle without shocks. That presents the temptation to put Whitlock front and center as a possible rotation solution. Following Sale would be a nice testing ground.

Whitlock is no novice to multiple innings this season. The talented righty keeps his pitch count respectable. A nice testing ground for Whitlock to follow Sale with his own three or more innings. A potentially searing combination of Sale and Whitlock before turning it over to the bullpen. And eventually, that bullpen may not be needed.

Then there is the flip side of Whitlock taking the role of the opener. Manager Alex Cora has maintained first place with judicious use of the pitching talent he has at his call. Either process could show longer-term value. Both stretched out and if Sale is back in form a nightmare for opposing hitters. Both these pitchers can be cruel to the batters. The Red Sox management has time, patience, and a lead. Place panic on the backburner.

That is just one possibility as the Red Sox staff also has Darwinzon Hernandez as another talent being considered as rotation material. Personally, I would not be tempted enough to slot Hernandez into a more extensive adventure. Adventure is most appropriate with an 18.2 BB%. Hernandez’s pure stuff is keeping hitters to a .213 average. But those free passes. Just a thought.

The Sale as opener would not be a lengthy process since full pitching recovery is the goal. As the pitch count grows so would the necessity of just who follows Sale into the game. That it could provide is a testing ground for future rotation and the future could be just six weeks away if stretching out is positive. Otherwise, the deeper Sale goes then the usual bullpen hierarchy would take place.

Next season, Eduardo Rodriguez could be elsewhere taking advantage of free agency. This season, Garrett Richards has had some issues. A stretched-out Whitlock may represent a viable alternative in case of Richards not righting the ship. Then comes the unforeseen. An injury within the rotation leaves the Red Sox in a quandary with Tanner Houck – also having the injury bug – as the only notable replacement part.

Next. Chris Sale injury history and updates. dark

Sale will soon be back and this type of problem is akin to having too much money. Cora will use Sale in a possible variety of roles.  Sale has shown a willingness to do whatever is directed. The idea is to have a Sale at 100%. After his recent encouraging performance teammates may already be voting on World Series shares.