BOSTON -- Just as Chris Sale was starting to look in recent weeks like the ace of old, an all too familiar issue happened to the lefty on Thursday night at Fenway Park.
Sale exited with two outs in the top of the fourth inning with left shoulder soreness in Boston's 8-2 victory.
Sale underwent an MRI on Friday, and was the club was still awaiting results when Red Sox manager Alex Cora held court with the media prior to Friday's game against the Rays. Cora said that Sale will definitely miss his next start, and could be headed for the injured list prior to Friday's game. Corey Kluber, who is due back from the paternity list, would likely take Sale's spot on the roster.
Cora said that Sale's shoulder was still sore on Friday, but the manager had no other information.
Early on, Sale looked like he was going to turn in another solid start, matching power pitches with Reds fireballing phenom Hunter Greene.
“Hoping for the best,” said Cora. “Obviously, it didn’t look great. The velo was down in the [fourth] inning. He went from 95 to 90. We’ll wait and see.”
After dealing with a barrage of health issues from 2020-22, Sale was fully healthy for the start of Spring Training and made his first 10 starts without incident.
Cora and assistant athletic trainer Masai Takahashi made two medical visits in that fourth inning to check on Sale, and he was removed from the game following the second visit.
“I cannot be irresponsible,” said Cora. “We’ve been through this lane for a while. We know each other. Obviously, it’s not easy because of what he has gone through, but at the end of the day, I have to take care of him. I know he tried to take care of us, but it doesn’t work that way from my end. At the end, it’s Chris Sale of the Red Sox. He wanted to finish it, but nah. He gave it a shot, but after that you can’t be irresponsible.”
In 3 2/3 innings, Sale gave up five hits and one run, walking one and striking out six.
Sale topped out at 96 mph in the first inning, but his first two pitches of the fourth inning were 89.7 and 89.8 mph. Sale was able to reach back for a 95.5 mph heater to Nick Senzel, the final batter he faced.
Cora got an uneasy feeling as that fourth inning developed.
“That inning, the way he was moving on the mound, and people noticed and I kept looking at the velo,” said Cora. “And then I saw 95 [again]. But like I said, we’ll check tomorrow and see where we’re at.”
It was an unsettling scene for the Red Sox and their fans to see Sale walk off the mound with another injury, especially when he was throwing the best he had in years.
“Yeah it's tough,” said Red Sox shortstop Kiké Hernández, who homered in Thursday’s victory. “But at the same time, I'm proud of him for not being [stubborn] and fighting AC and Masai to stay in the game. Obviously we're hoping for good news tomorrow. And yeah, it's tough because he's been building up great. Last four or five starts have been really, really good. At the beginning of the game, he was looking sharp again. And it's tough to see him come out of game. But we'll know more tomorrow and we’re hoping for good news.”
Entering Thursday, Sale had a 2.91 ERA in his previous seven starts. This, after Sale shook off the rust in his first three starts, registering an 11.25 ERA.
For the season, Sale is 5-2 with a 4.58 ERA.
While Sale’s injury was the focal point of the night, the Red Sox were pleased to stave off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds, taking the finale when the recently-slumping offense erupted for six runs in the bottom of the eighth to snap a 2-2 tie.