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Sale won't be rushed for Opening Day start

@IanMBrowne
February 15, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who had been dealing with the flu and pneumonia, was cleared to join his teammates at Spring Training on Saturday. There’s a chance the setback will prevent him from making his third consecutive Opening Day start for Boston. Interim manager Ron

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who had been dealing with the flu and pneumonia, was cleared to join his teammates at Spring Training on Saturday.

There’s a chance the setback will prevent him from making his third consecutive Opening Day start for Boston.

Interim manager Ron Roenicke made it clear the Sox will be careful with the left-hander, who missed the final six weeks of last season with a left elbow injury.

“Yeah, obviously he's huge for our starting rotation and is one of the best pitchers in the game,” said Roenicke. “So whenever we can get him to start up, it would be silly for us to try to push him to make him come back sooner than probably he should physically.

“So it's just, it’s not worth taking a risk on having him, [by] you know, Opening Day, exactly, where we’re pushing him to get him there. He's important to us as we go through this season and hopefully get into the playoffs and keep him strong. To push anybody nowadays, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to any of us.”

If Sale doesn’t pitch Opening Day on March 26 in Toronto, the most logical candidate to take the ball would be lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who is coming off a 19-win season.

At this juncture of Spring Training, there’s no reason for Roenicke to definitively say that Sale will miss Opening Day.

Instead, the club will take a step-by-step progression.

“I think we have to reevaluate him every week to see where he is and see how far we can continue to progress him,” Roenicke said.

Though Sale is no longer contagious, which is why he was permitted to report to camp, he is still getting over a pretty significant illness.

“He still doesn’t have full strength back,” said Roenicke. “Played catch today, stretched it out. He also did that yesterday. I think he’s progressing along fine. We’re going to still go a little easy with him and try to keep him out of fundamentals now and more inside, he can be inside with the trainers. Try to get his cardio where it is so it's controlled.”

The Red Sox continue to believe Sale is over the elbow woes from last summer. They are determined to keep it that way, which could include some precautious steps in Spring Training.

“I think any time there is any injury, you're pretty silly if you don't stay on top of it to try to make sure that doesn’t come back,” said Roenicke. “You guys know -- this guy is huge for us and not just this year, but through his contract. To have him as your No. 1 versus maybe pushing him and maybe having him be a three or four, we don’t want that to happen. We’re going to take care of him and whatever it is to keep him strong through the whole season.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.