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'New car smell' gone for Sale at Red Sox camp

Left-hander believes new routine will keep gas in the tank for October
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As Chris Sale put it on Wednesday morning, the new car smell is gone.

Now entering his second season as the ace of the Red Sox, the power lefty can put all his focus into pitching instead of acclimating.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As Chris Sale put it on Wednesday morning, the new car smell is gone.

Now entering his second season as the ace of the Red Sox, the power lefty can put all his focus into pitching instead of acclimating.

"Pretty different," Sale said prior to the first official workout of Spring Training on Wednesday. "It was definitely different getting an adjustment period, getting to know everybody, getting into routines and things like that. I would like to think I got all of that under my belt, and [to] just get going this year. New car smell is gone. I'm feeling good. I'm feeling normal now. Just kind of worried about baseball, and take it from there."

Given that he is now fully secure in his surroundings, you can be sure Sale won't throw a 98-mph fastball on the first pitch of his first Grapefruit League start like he did last year.

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In hindsight, Sale admits he was too amped up for his first season with the Red Sox, and it likely hurt him down the stretch, when he went 3-5 with a 5.12 ERA in his final nine starts, including the postseason. Overall, Sale was stellar in his first season with Boston, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts, and finishing second in the American League's Cy Young Award voting.

"I think once I got home I kind of reflected on the season. It was like, 'All right, something needs to change.' I came into Spring Training a little too prepared," said Sale. "I felt like I had something to prove last year, too. I'm here in a new city with a new team, and I felt like I had to prove myself again. I think that kind of came back to bite me in the end. But I'm not going to look back. I can't change it now."

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Instead, Sale has taken careful steps to change his preparation for the upcoming season.

"That's between myself, [pitching coach] Dana [LeVangie], [manager] Alex [Cora], [trainer] Brad [Pearson] and [strength and conditioning coach] Kiyoshi [Momose]," Sale said. "We're all involved. In the training room. In the weight room. We've all got together and kind of talked about coming up with a formula for longevity, and building up. I think last year I came into Spring Training kind of too amped up, too ready to go, and I think we're kind of looking for more of a gradual buildup."

The changes should be subtle, yet impactful.

"That's our end goal," said Sale. "Seeing things as a whole instead of in front of you. We're working on something to kind of create longevity, and maintain strength throughout the whole year. It's kind of like a plane that takes off. Kind of that gradual buildup instead of a heavy workload up front, and kind of maintaining that."

The plan makes perfect sense, but it does feel a little different for a fierce competitor like Sale.

"I'm confident obviously in the people I have in my corner, and I'm confident in myself to stay on track," said Sale. "It's kind of weird doing something different than I've ever done. But I have faith and trust in everyone here, and in myself to see this process through, and make sure we're on the positive side of things."

When it comes to his goals for the season, Sale is keeping it simple.

"For me, if you're going to narrow it down, I'd say the two most important things for a starting pitcher are starts and innings," Sale said. "Are you making all your starts? And are you filling up innings you're supposed to fill up? All the other things are going to work out."

After getting to the postseason for the first time in his career last year, Sale went home with the sour taste of a knockout from the Astros in the AL Division Series. He is eager to have a more fulfilling October experience this season.

"I think that's the goal for everybody here," Sale said. "I don't care if it's your first day or your 20th year. I think when you start today, Day 1 of Spring Training, the goal is World Series championship. Or at least make it to the playoffs, and give yourself a chance to win a World Series. Any other goal other than that doesn't really matter. We're going to do everything possible to reach that next step."

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

Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale