Red Sox in Fort Myers: Will Chris Sale be ready for Opening Day?
When Chris Sale has been healthy, he has been absolutely dominant for the Boston Red Sox. Since signing with the team back in 2017, he has posted a 0.998 WHIP, 2.66 FIP, and 3.09 ERA, while averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings.
The on-field results have rarely been an issue, though; his struggle to remain healthy, on the other hand, has become the recurring theme. That theme persisted during the 2022 season, with the lefty only managing to make 2 starts (5.2 IP) due to a variety of health-related issues and setbacks.
Off-season free agent signings and trades took center stage in November and early December, so there wasn't much discussion about Chris Sale's health status during that time. However, fans received some encouraging words from the man himself at Red Sox Winter Weekend in Springfield:
As reported by Gabrielle Starr, Red Sox reporter for the Boston Herald, Sale is on-track to be the 2023 Opening Day starter for the Red Sox. This assertion might be met with skepticism from some, which is not unreasonable; after all, 2019 was the last time he did not begin the regular season on the injured list.
Despite his struggles to remain on the field, he has remained accountable and insists that he plans to deliver in a big way this season. This sentiment was captured in a quote from Sale which was reported by Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic:
It has been reported by multiple outlets that Chris Sale is among the early arrivals to Fort Myers, several days ahead of the required reporting date for pitchers & catchers (February 15th).
I don't think anyone is ready to pencil Chris Sale in for 30 starts in 2023 or even guarantee that he will be 100% healthy by the start of the season. He'll need to prove that he can be durable like he was earlier in his career.
From 2012-2018, he made 25 or more starts (150+ innings pitched) every season. However, that 7-year stretch began when he was only 23 years old and ended when he was 29. He's now entering his age-34 season.
As reported by Gabrielle Starr, Sale playfully shared a silver lining to the time he has spent sidelined. The lack of wear-and-tear on his arm over that stretch might help him turn back the clock:
In the short-lived glimpse Red Sox fans had of Chris Sale of 2022, they witnessed a pitcher who can still be very effective at the top of a big-league rotation. His fastball reached the mid-90s (topping out at 96.9 mph), his slider had plenty of bite, and he managed to toss 5 scoreless innings against the Rays.
The story remains the same with Sale. If he is healthy, he will be the starting pitcher that the Red Sox desperately need at the top of the rotation. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. However, as of now he remains on-track to begin a season healthy for the first time in a long time.