Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale wasn’t happy with his rehab start
In what many are hoping will be the final tune-up before Chris Sale is ready to return to the Boston Red Sox, the lefty’s performance leaves us to wonder if he’s ready for his rehab assignment to be complete.
Sale threw 72 pitches, only 42 of which were for strikes, while lasting 3 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s start for Triple-A Worcester. His pitch count has been built up enough that he could conceivably give the Red Sox five innings in his next appearance, which would be enough to warrant activating him on the major league roster. What he did with that pitch count was a mixed bag though.
Sale came out firing with a 97 mph fastball to get a swing and a miss on his first pitch of the game.
It’s clear his velocity is back in vintage form. It’s his command that remains a work in progress. Sale struck out five batters but also walked five, including a free pass with the bases loaded to end his night.
Frustrated by the early hook and his disappointing performance, Sale threw a temper tantrum on his way back to the clubhouse. In a viral video provided by NBC10 Boston’s Alysha Palumbo, Sale was seen trying to rip a television off the wall, then kicking it repeatedly when he failed to pry it loose.
Sale has always been a fiery competitor. It’s part of what has made him so successful in his career. This is hardly the first meltdown he’s ever had in the public eye (just ask the Chicago White Sox how he feels about alternate uniforms), and it probably won’t be his last. His immature outburst isn’t the reason to worry about if he’s ready for the big leagues but the reason for his frustration certainly is.
The Red Sox haven’t announced if Sale’s next start will be in Triple-A or the majors. Sale knows the decision isn’t up to him but he believes that he’s ready for the promotion despite his poor performance, according to MassLive’s Katie Morrison.
"“I’m very ready. I know today was a little bit of a hiccup, but it’s nothing that can’t be ironed out,” Sale said. “[It was] not good. Decent at times, just command was bad today. Direction was bad. Nothing’s easy in this game, but things that are easier to clean up mechanically.”"
Sale indicated that he had a good feel for his fastball, slider and changeup, throwing each pitch well at certain times. He simply couldn’t utilize them all consistently.
The lack of command was very uncharacteristic from a pitcher who owns a 2.1 BB/9 for his career and a 5.33 K/BB ratio that is the best in major league history by a qualified starting pitcher. He showed flashes of returning to form by dialing up the velocity and striking out a handful of hitters but the troubling control issues held him back from being the pitcher who was a Cy Young contender for seven consecutive seasons before injuries derailed his career.
Sales doesn’t see his inefficient outing as a setback. Sure, he would have preferred to pitch deeper into the game to get more reps, but he intends to work out his mechanical issues in bullpen sessions before his next start. He has some things that he needs to “clean up” but he knows exactly what he needs to do in order to prepare for his next appearance.
The earliest that Sale could potentially make his season debut is Monday, July 11 in Tampa Bay. That would line him up to make two starts before the All-Star break. While his underwhelming performance in Triple-A suggests he’s not ready, the Red Sox need to consider every angle before making a decision.
Sale might not be back to form quite yet but top pitching prospect Brayan Bello had similar issues with his command in his major league debut against the Rays. Even if he still has some “cleaning up” to do, Sale would give the Red Sox a better chance than Bello, who has enticing upside but needs more polishing in the minor leagues before his electric stuff is ready to translate to this level.
If the Red Sox don’t active Sale in Tampa Bay, his next opportunity would be in the Bronx. Boston might prefer to ease Sale in against the mediocre Rays lineup rather than throwing him into the fire against the juggernaut Yankees.
Boston’s brass probably isn’t smashing televisions but they were certainly hoping for better results from Sale to make this decision easy. Their injury-ravaged rotation is currently being filled by four spot starters called up from Triple-A, so the Red Sox need Sale to stabilize the staff. If he shows promising signs of figuring out his command issues in bullpen sessions over the next few days, that might be enough to convince the team to activate him. Ready or not, here he comes.