Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Sale prepping to be force down the stretch

Red Sox ace 'dialing back' throwing program with eye on strong finish in 2018
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- The competitive fire within Chris Sale makes him never want to dial back his intensity, even when it comes to offseason and in-season preparation.

However, the lefty has come to the realization that in order for him to be at his best when the Red Sox need him most -- in September and October -- he needs to tweak the way he ramps up.

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- The competitive fire within Chris Sale makes him never want to dial back his intensity, even when it comes to offseason and in-season preparation.

However, the lefty has come to the realization that in order for him to be at his best when the Red Sox need him most -- in September and October -- he needs to tweak the way he ramps up.

Sale made it clear on Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend that he's carefully outlining everything he does heading into 2018 so he can be a force down the stretch.

"I've made a couple tweaks to my throwing this year," said Sale. "[I] started a bit later, trying to ease into it a little more. In terms of working out, [I] started working out earlier, doing Pilates -- the same things I've been doing conditioning- and strength-wise, but just kind of dialing back my throwing program."

Video: Browne discusses Sale's successful 2017 season

From Opening Day until mid-August last year, Sale was the best starting pitcher in the American League. In 24 starts and 168 1/3 innings, he was 14-4 with a 2.51 ERA while allowing 13 home runs. But in his last eight starts, he went 3-4 with a 4.30 ERA while giving up 11 homers in 46 innings.

In Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Astros, Sale clearly wasn't himself, giving up nine hits, seven runs and three homers over five innings. The Red Sox lost the series in four games.

Video: BOS@HOU Gm1: Sale discusses tough postseason debut

Sale has no desire to experience that sour taste again this year, so he'll do whatever he can to avoid it.

"I know exactly everything that's been laid out for me already," said Sale. "I've talked [with the team] not only about offseason stuff, but even Spring Training and in-season, I've spoken with the trainers, [pitching coach] Dana [LeVangie], [manager] Alex [Cora], and everyone is on the same page. It makes it more of an easy transition."

Hanley on Red Sox: 'We can be world champs'

Sale had a humorous response when asked if this would mean fewer starts or innings.

"Easy," said Sale. "No, no, no, nothing like that. Just preparation and the amount of throws made in the offseason, the amount of throws made in Spring Training. Just kind of playing it by ear when the season rolls around. I won't spill all the beans, but we've got a pretty good routine, I guess you could call it, set up. I'm looking forward to it."

With the benefit of hindsight, Sale admits he peaked too early last year. The main reason was that he was so revved up to join the Red Sox that he had himself practically at full throttle even by his first Spring Training start, when he was throwing in the upper 90s.

Sale thinks that he can correct his preparation in subtle fashion.

"It's just the gradual rise of my throwing program. You know I was new here last year. I came in, and I felt like I had to prove something," said Sale. "I hadn't thrown a single pitch in front of you guys, in front of any of the fans. So part of me felt I had to come in and say, 'Hey, this is what you're getting.' And you know, I showed up to Spring Training really ready to go. You know my arm was in almost season form, and I think we're going to gradually build that up this year instead of, you know, coming out hot out of the gate."

Getting a taste of the postseason for the first time was a thrill for Sale -- and in the end, a driving force.

Video: Sale confident in Red Sox

"Obviously, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth after walking out early," Sale said. "We plan on being better this year and getting deeper. We want to walk away with that trophy. We're all on the same page. We're all trying to get better. We know who we have and what we have, and if we put it all together, we could be really good."

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

Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale