MLB’s most likely Red Sox bounce-back candidate for 2023 is hilarious

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - JULY 12: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on July 12, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - JULY 12: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on July 12, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are (hopefully) looking to bounce back in a big way in 2023.

After a disappointing season marred by injuries and some questionable roster construction, they’ll need to make some big changes before next season as well as getting significant improvement from several individuals.

So, who needs to bounce back? Pretty much everyone, in some way or another.

But according to, the biggest rebound candidate guaranteed to be on next year’s roster is Chris Sale. Duh?

"“It’s always a little bit of a roller coaster with Sale, but he ended up making only two starts this year … which gives him 11 since 2019. His luck can’t possibly get any worse — can it?”Will Leitch,"

No offense to Leitch, but calling Sale’s tenure in Boston a “roller coaster” feels like the understatement of the decade. It’s hard to remember a Red Sox star in recent history who’s fallen harder and faster than Sale.

It’s astounding to realize that we’re less than a month away from the four-year anniversary of his storybook performance to close out the 2018 World Series. And what a downhill plummet it’s been since then. The trouble truly began on Opening Day 2019, though the warning signs had been there since the middle of the 2018 season when he’d missed over a month of the second half and hadn’t looked the same when he returned. By early August of 2019, he was done for the year with elbow inflammation. He and the Sox did everything they could to avoid Tommy John surgery but finally accepted its necessity in March 2020.

Sale returned from TJ in August 2021, but hasn’t really regained his pre-surgery dominance, and injuries keep sending him back to the sidelines. Last February, he sustained a stress fracture in his rib while throwing in Florida, and couldn’t make his season debut until mid-July. In his second start of the summer, Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks hit a line drive right back at the mound, fracturing Sale’s lefty pinky. While he was recovering from the subsequent surgery in early August, he broke his right wrist in a bicycle accident.

As Leitch notes, a significant portion of Sale’s downfall can be chalked up to bad luck, and Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has used the same terminology. The 33-year-old had pneumonia before MLB shut down spring training in February 2020, and he’s had COVID twice (though he’s also chosen to remain unvaccinated). Riding his bike was a questionable decision, but getting hit with a line drive is a totally unforeseen misfortune.

Will Chris Sale bounce back for the Red Sox in 2023?

At this point, there’s really no way to predict what Sale’s future holds. He’ll be 34 at the end of March and hasn’t pitched a full season or even reached the lowly 50-inning mark since 2019. The data from his most recent seasons is such a small sample size, and so many unforeseen variables have derailed his once-stellar career. Since returning from Tommy John, the 2017 Cy Young runner-up has only thrown 48 1/3 innings over 11 starts between the last two seasons, and only 5 2/3 innings in 2022.

Sale’s contract has an opt-out this offseason, but it would be a total shock if he left. After the last few years, he wouldn’t command anything remotely close as a free agent to the lucrative remainder of the enormous extension Boston gave him ahead of the 2019 season. But at this point, the Sox need to operate as if he does not exist. They can’t rely on him as they look ahead to next year; he’s too much of a question mark to be seriously factored into this offseason’s roster construction. Anything he can contribute going forward will be something of a bonus, a pleasant departure from what’s become a horrible norm.

Hopefully, Sale’s misfortune is finally coming to an end. But Leitch pondered how the southpaw’s luck could possibly get worse, and unfortunately, at this point, nothing is off the table.