Sale 'getting close' to 2021 debut

Lefty ace likely to join Red Sox after one more rehab start

August 1st, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- The calendar has finally come into sharp focus for ’s long-awaited return to Boston’s rotation.

The lefty ace will make what is likely to be his final Minor League rehab start on Saturday for Triple-A Worcester at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

That means the earliest he will pitch for the Red Sox is Aug. 12 in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park against the Rays, the team Boston is battling for first place in the American League East.

If the Sox wait one more day, Sale’s return would come at home against the Orioles on the two-year anniversary of when he last pitched in the Majors at Cleveland.

Sale underwent Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020.

The start in Scranton will be the fifth of Sale’s Minor League rehab assignment. Prior to Sale's last two starts, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Sale would need at least one more outing after that.

The manager didn’t say that about Sale's next outing. Sale got up to five innings for Worcester on Saturday, walking one and striking out seven while throwing 81 pitches.

“We’ll re-address the situation after that, but he’s getting close,” said Cora. “I talked to Chris this morning. Going into it, and I read some quotes, he felt like it was a regular start. There were no limits, like, ‘I got to go out there and work.’ He accomplished that. Today, he felt great. He’ll get on the bus, he’ll pitch and then we’ll see where it takes us, but he’s getting close.”

Sale's return could be monumental for the Red Sox, whose starting rotation has struggled since the All-Star break.

Draft recap
The 5 p.m. ET deadline for signing Draft picks passed on Sunday, and the Red Sox wound up signing 16 of their 20 picks from this year’s pool.

The big miss was Florida Gators center fielder Jud Fabian, the second-rounder the Sox selected with the 40th overall pick.

The slot value for that pick was $1.86 million. A report surfaced last week that Fabian was looking for $3 million. The gap couldn’t be bridged.

As compensation for not signing Fabian, the Sox will get an extra pick at No. 41 in the 2022 Draft.

“It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to sign Jud. We certainly knew it was possible going in,” said Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. “But we were hopeful that we would be able to come to an agreement. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t. But we understand it, we’ll be rooting for him. These things do happen, and we knew that if we were unable to sign him, we would be able to get the pick again next year. That made it worth the risk in our minds.”

Fabian announced his decision to return to the Gators for 2022 in a tweet on Saturday night.

The other picks who weren’t signed were 13th-round selection Zach Ehrhard, 15th-rounder Payton Green and 20th-round pick Josh Hood.

All three were listed as shortstops. Ehrhard and Green were high schoolers, while Hood went to the University of Pennsylvania.

Cora: Vázquez had ‘career year’ in '19
Prior to Sunday night’s game against the Rays at Tropicana Field, Cora suggested it might be time for people to stop expecting catcher to hit for the kind of power he did in 2019, when he ripped a career-high 23 homers.

Vázquez hasn't reached double-digit homers in any other pro season, except for when he hit 18 at Low-A Greenville in 2011.

The catcher entered Sunday’s game with four homers in 344 plate appearances.

“In ’19, if you look at his career, people have career years,” Cora said. “And I think as far as the power numbers, it was a career year. I had my career year. I hit 10 one year. I was like, ‘Wow, you’re a power hitter!’ No, it doesn’t work that way. When you start chasing power, sometimes there’s a lot of empty fly balls.

“When Christian is going well, he’s hitting line drives all over the place, and sometimes he’ll hit the ball out of the ballpark. He’s not having a bad season. He’s actually done an amazing job behind the plate, calling pitches, grinding. And he has put together some good at-bats, but sometimes we have to decide who we want to be. And I do believe Christian Vázquez is a good big league hitter who can hit for average, can drive in runs and can hit for occasional power.”