Sale focused on healing, helping team win again

August 20th, 2019

BOSTON -- Considering what the alternative diagnosis could have been in his visit with Dr. James Andrews, Red Sox ace Chris Sale was relatively encouraged about his health while talking to reporters at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Andrews didn’t detect any ligament damage, instead seeing just the inflammation in the left elbow that Sale’s first MRI with Boston’s medical staff revealed a couple of days earlier. Sale received a platelet-rich plasma injection during his visit with Andrews.

“I mean, obviously pitchers in general have arm issues sometimes. When it’s something new, you want to find out what’s going on and that’s why we were so quick to go down there and get his opinion because he can do this blindfolded,” said Sale. “He checked it out and we got some better news obviously, not great news, but about as good as we could get. We rest, I think maybe four to six weeks, get on a throwing program and get back to it.”

While Sale believes he is on track to be at full health in 2020, the period of no throwing and a re-evaluation with Andrews in approximately six weeks takes away any realistic chance the lefty will pitch again this season.

“He got the PRP [shot], they say it’s a six-week [rest] period,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “For the regular season, probably October, too, it’s going to be almost impossible. Now we’ve got to build up, wait for them, and stick with the program. As far as throwing and all that, I can’t give you a timetable, but obviously throughout the process, that’s going to happen. Just got to be patient, see how he reacts to it, and we go from there.”

For Sale, the injury was a somewhat fitting capper of a season that has been difficult from the very start, when he was rocked on Opening Day in Seattle. Though Sale has sprinkled in a few dominant starts, this season (6-11, 4.40 ERA) has easily been the toughest of his career.

“It’s tough,” said Sale. “This whole season has been kind of a grind. Everyone talks about last year being a dream season. Personally, this has been kind of a nightmare season. Obviously I wanted to see it through, to keep fighting with the guys. We still have a shot, so anytime someone has to step in and do your job for you, you can’t go out there and fulfill the season, that’s tough.”

Lefty swingman Brian Johnson stepped into Sale’s slot on Tuesday night against the Phillies. David Price threw another bullpen session at Fenway during the afternoon, and his return from a cyst on his left wrist could happen as soon as this weekend in San Diego.

Trailing the Rays by six games for the second Wild Card spot entering Tuesday action, the Red Sox will see what kind of run is possible without Sale.

“I mean, it’s going to affect us every five days,” said Cora. “We know that. Losing a talent like him is tough. But we’ve got to move forward. That’s the way we see it. He would hate us to say, ‘Oh, we’re done because he’s not pitching.’ That’s not the case with us. We know where we’re at. We know what we have to do.

“And like I said, the schedule is going to help us the next two weeks, and then September we’ll be there and we’ll see what we do in September.”

While the Red Sox focus on getting back into the race, Sale will put his energy into doing everything in his power to make a strong return for next season and to be the ace he is expected to be over the length of the five-year contract extension he signed in Spring Training.

Though ownership and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski have received second-guessing in the Boston media and talk-show circuit for Sale’s contract extension in light of his current injury, Sale said that doesn’t put any added pressure on him.

“I’m a baseball player,” said Sale. “I don’t worry about contracts. I’m worried about getting my arm right and trying to help this team win again.”

When Sale first felt the discomfort in his elbow, he thought it was just one of those things a pitcher goes through over the course of a long season. But when the stiffness didn’t subside after a few days, he had no choice but to let the medical staff know what was going on. And that led to the chain of events which ended with the trip to Pensacola, Fla. to see Andrews.

“Initially I felt like I was going to pitch. Just a sore elbow. I’ve been there before and continued to pitch,” Sale said. “They obviously wanted to get an MRI and go see Andrews. With all the things and the future at risk as well, you want to make sure of what’s going on and do the best thing not only for right now but for the future. I still have a lot of ground to cover for this team and I plan on doing so. I want to do that to the best of my ability. This was the way we had to go.”