Rejuvenated Sale: 'Humpty Dumpty got put back together'
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The way Red Sox ace Chris Sale looks at it, rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
In fact, the seven-time All-Star declared himself a full go for 2023, adding that he is over three fluky, non-arm related injuries that limited him to just two starts last season.
“Humpty Dumpty got put back together,” quipped Sale, who spoke at Red Sox Winter Weekend on Saturday.
After throwing 57 1/3 innings and making 14 starts over the past three seasons, Sale understands the external skepticism that he can reclaim full-time duties in Boston’s rotation. He has always carried a chip on his shoulder. Factoring in recent events, that feeling has doubled or tripled.
“I'm more motivated for my teammates, my coaching staff, for the organization, for the fans,” said Sale. “You know, I owe these people something. I owe everybody. I owe my teammates the starting pitcher they thought they were gonna get. I owe the front office the starting pitcher they paid for, and I owe the fans the performances that they're paying to come and see.”
Bad luck has to run out at some point, right?
“I sure hope so,” said Sale. “You catch yourself kind of looking over your [shoulder], just kind of in a situation where you’re just kind of waiting for the next bad thing to happen, and that is not clean living right there.”
Misfortune seemingly awaited Sale at every corner in 2022. During the lockout, he suffered a stress fracture in his rib cage that kept him out until July. When Sale returned, it was short-lived. In the first inning of the second start into his comeback, Sale sustained a broken left pinkie finger when he was struck by a line drive from Aaron Hicks at Yankee Stadium.
They say bad things happen in threes? Sale became a believer in that theory on Aug. 6, the day he was in a bike accident and fractured his right wrist, ending any chance of a comeback in 2022.
“It was actually a really beautiful day. I very vividly remember it,” Sale said of the bike accident. “I went to [Boston College], played catch for the first time after my pinkie surgery. Really good vibes, very good. Got a good workout in. My family [wasn’t in town], the team wasn't there.
“I had a wonderful day lined up. Called one of my friends. We were gonna play video games all day long, going to get Chipotle for lunch. And it was like 70 degrees, something like that. I just hopped on a bike going down a hill. I don't remember the crash a whole lot, but I just know that the handlebars went hard left. I didn't even go over the handlebars. It just threw me straight to the ground, like I just went kind of [in the other direction]. Next thing I know, my wrist is looking that way.”
In the weeks after the bike accident, Sale dusted himself off and has subsequently put all of his energy into being ready for a full season in 2023.
“I just need to stay away from bikes and bad luck,” said Sale.
It will ultimately be up to manager Alex Cora who will start Opening Day for the Red Sox on March 30 against the Orioles. But Sale fully plans to be on the roster instead of the injured list.
“I got home from the season, took the same amount of time off, started playing catch sooner than I usually do because I obviously didn't throw at the end of the year,” said Sale. “I’ve been playing long toss, been off the mound [recently]. I usually don't even get off the mound this early. So you know, like I said, I got a good thing going. Just don’t say it too loud.”
If Sale can resemble anything close to what he was prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020, it could significantly change the trajectory of a Boston team trying to emerge from a last-place finish in perhaps the most competitive division in baseball: the American League East.
Sale's goal for the season is simpler than it has ever been: to pitch every fifth day.
“From three years old, from the time I could talk up to today, I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. That got taken away from me for a very long time. It was very, very hard for me to go through that,” said Sale.
“I've got my opportunity back. I’m in a good spot. I have a good starting block now. This is the first Spring Training in a while that I’m a full go in, and it’s something to be excited about. So I just got my toy back. I’d like to play with it for a little while.”