Red Sox reveal when Chris Sale will make 2021 season debut

Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

We finally know when Chris Sale will return to the Red Sox rotation

Monday hasn’t even arrived yet and we’re already counting down the minutes until next weekend. That’s fairly common for those of us enduring a standard weekday work schedule but this time the anticipation holds more significance. Saturday is a day for Boston Red Sox fans to circle on their calendar, as it marks the long-awaited return of Chris Sale.

The Red Sox announced that Sale will make his 2021 season debut at Fenway Park on Saturday, August 14 against the Baltimore Orioles. It will have been just over two years since Sale last appeared on a major league mound. It’s been a long road to recovery from Tommy John surgery since his last appearance on August 13, 2019 in Cleveland but Sale is finally returning to the rotation.

Sale declared himself pain-free and ready to return to the big leagues following his latest rehab outing with Triple-A Worcester, according to The lefty tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out nine. The goal was to get him to around 90 pitches in order for the team to feel comfortable with Sale handling a full starter’s workload and he got to 89. Close enough!

"“I felt like what I did tonight, I could have gone and done that in a big-league game,” Sale said. “I would say my last two starts, I’ve felt normal.”"

Sale completes his rehab assignment with 20 innings pitched over five starts. He posted a 1.35 ERA and struck out 35 batters with only five walks.

The Red Sox are giving Sale a full week of rest following his last rehab outing. That means he will miss a pivotal series with the Tampa Bay Rays this week. There was some speculation that Sale’s debut would be Thursday against the Rays, which would line him up for making his second start of the season the following week against the Yankees. Now it appears that Sale’s second outing will have to wait until the Red Sox return home to host the Texas Rangers, meaning he’s not going to pitch against either division rival.

It’s not surprising that the Red Sox are being cautious with Sale’s return and it’s possible they want to help him get off to a strong start against a pair of weaker opponents. Boston really could have used their ace during those two series that are arguably the most important ones on the schedule this month.

The Red Sox returned Tanner Houck to Triple-A Worcester following his start last night. He was added as the 27th man for the doubleheader but he’s likely to return to open the series against Baltimore on Friday. The expectation is that Houck will remain in the rotation in place of Martin Perez, who was recently demoted to the bullpen.

That would leave the Red Sox with a six-man rotation once Sale is activated, a strategy they have briefly toyed with this season. It probably won’t last though. Sale’s return could spell the end of the Garrett Richards experiment. Unless Richards tosses an absolute gem against the Blue Jays today, he’s a candidate to be designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Sale.

The tricky part is that the Red Sox have a doubleheader scheduled for August 17, which follows an off day on Monday. They still need someone to pitch against the Orioles next Sunday, a spot that is currently lined up for Richards. The off day affords the Red Sox the flexibility of moving some pitchers up a day – Eduardo Rodriguez, who starts Tuesday against the Rays, could pitch Sunday on normal rest, then Nick Pivetta could move up a day to pitch one half of the doubleheader.

It’s unclear if the Red Sox want to do that or if they prefer giving their starters an extra day of rest. We probably won’t know until the team is ready to reveal if booting Richards off the roster is the move they indeed make to activate Sale.

There are stills some lingering questions about how the rotation lines up in the aftermath of Sale’s return but the takeaway we can get excited about is the ace is back!

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