Red Sox lefty Chris Sale is working his way back from a rib injury
The Red Sox placed Sale on the 60-day injured list on Monday. The move isn’t retroactive, which means the countdown doesn’t begin until Opening Day on Thursday. The earliest that Sale can be activated is June 6 when the team travels to Los Angeles to open a series with the Angels.
Sale anticipated being back on the mound sooner than that after providing an optimistic update on his recovery over the weekend. The lefty has been sidelined throughout spring training by a stress fracture in his rib cage but he’s finally starting to feel normal again, which has allowed him to ramp up activities. The one hurdle that he hasn’t cleared yet is throwing a baseball, but he should face that challenge soon.
According to MassLive’s Christopher Smith, Sale will stay in Fort Myers while the Red Sox open the season on the road against the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. He will meet up with the team when they return to Boston for their home opener next Friday, by which point he intends to be ready for this vital step in his recovery.
"“Should be throwing by then,” Sale said. “Throwing like long toss. Maybe even off the mound if we’re wishfully thinking.”"
Manager Alex Cora also indicated that Sale could realistically be throwing by next week, so this isn’t an aggressive timeline manufactured by an overeager pitcher chomping at the bit to get back on the mound.
The Red Sox are being understandably cautious with Sale, who has made only nine starts over the past two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery. As frustrating as this latest injury setback has been, the lefty knows it’s in the best interest of himself and the team to ensure he’s fully healthy before he’s unleashed.
Sale might have been ready before June but placing him on the 60-day IL provided the Red Sox with more flexibility by temporarily freeing a spot on the 40-man roster. MLB is allowing teams to use 28-man rosters in April to compensate for the abbreviated training camp created by the lockout. The Red Sox didn’t have enough available options on their 40-man roster who they deemed ready for a call up, which means they would need to clear a spot at another player’s expense.
Transferring Sale to the 60-day IL allowed the Red Sox to add non-roster invitee Tyler Danish to the Opening Day roster. The right-hander, who signed a minor league deal with the club in February, allowed only one run over six innings this spring. He provides some short-term bullpen depth.
Veteran first baseman Travis Shaw is a candidate to fill the final Opening Day roster spot but the Red Sox would need to clear a 40-man spot in order to add him. Barring a last minute trade, that could mean designating a player for assignment, which risks losing the player to another organization.
The Sale roster move prevents the Red Sox have having to face that difficult decision twice. As eager as they are to get their ace back on the mound, Boston values retaining their organizational depth over activating Sale as soon as possible. Considering he hasn’t started throwing yet and would need at least a month to build up his arm strength to prepare for a starter’s workload, Sale wouldn’t realistically be ready before mid-May at the earliest. It doesn’t make sense to sacrifice another player on the roster in order to keep Sale on the 40-man in hopes that he might be ready before June.
We will need to wait at least a couple of extra weeks for Sale’s return but at least he’s making promising progress in his recovery.