MANSHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale's leadership has extended this offseason to one of the most important arms in the organization.
Left-hander Jay Groome is ranked the No. 1 Red Sox prospect by MLB Pipeline, and Sale wants to make sure the ultratalented 19-year-old gets the most out of his considerable ability.
The unique partnership between the ace of the Major League staff and the top arm in the farm system started when Sale heard from mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez that Groome was relocating to Fort Myers, Fla., for the offseason.
Sale lives in Southwest Florida, not far from Boston's Spring Training base.
"I figured hey, you know, young guy in our organization, all the talent in the world," Sale said at Red Sox Winter Weekend on Saturday. "I mean, the kid's been throwing 98 [mph] since he was 14. He's got all the tools. I'm not reconstructing this guy. I'm just working out with him and picking his brain a little bit, just trying to maximize his potential."
Sale's intense offseason workouts are legendary. For Groome to tag along at this stage of his development can only be a good thing.
"It's been fun," said Sale. "He's done a really good job. It's fun to see. He's young and this is his first go at it. I'm just trying to get him prepared and show him, 'Hey, this is what it takes to get through a big league season.' He's got all the tools you can possibly ask for. That guy is an animal. Just trying to give him some ins and outs and try to get him here sooner rather than later."
The Red Sox took Groome with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. That is one selection earlier than when Sale was taken by the White Sox in the '10 Draft.
Sale thinks Groome's raw stuff is better than his own.
"Obviously we have similarities, being pitchers and being left-handed," Sale said. "But he's got me by a pretty good amount. Like I said, he's young and it's great just being able to show him on this platform what it takes and the work that goes in. You can't just roll out of bed and expect to go out and be effective. Just being able to talk to him, tell him what to expect and what to be ready for. He's been getting after it. He's a good kid."
The work Sale is doing with Groome isn't sporadic. It is regular. And right-hander Rick Porcello also has been a participant.
"We work out Monday nights," said Sale. "And then me, Rick and Jay, we do Pilates on Wednesdays. And then me and Jay work out Thursday and Friday. So about four times a week."
Groome's 2017 season was limited to 14 starts due to a left lat injury that occurred in his first start. The injury kept him off the mound for more than two months. There were struggles once he got back out there, and Groome finished the year 3-9 with a 5.69 ERA while making four starts for Class A Short-Season Lowell and 10 starts for Class A Greenville.
But such early lumps aren't uncommon for a pitcher who was drafted out of high school.
"Well, he's in a unique situation," said Sale. "I was in college and I had teammates in college and coaches in college pushing me in the right direction."
What Sale has conveyed to Groome this offseason is that he is a fully available resource to tap into.
"Sometimes you learn more from your teammates and your peers than you do from coaches," Sale said. "I've done this for a while. So I'd like to think I know a little bit of something about it and can share it with him. And, you know, the sooner he can realize what he can be, the better off we're going to be in the long run. You know, I look forward to the day that me and him are pitching in the same rotation."