Sale has 'a lot of fun' facing batters again

February 25th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Just another mundane live batting practice session at Spring Training?

Not this time. Not for .

For Boston’s lanky left-hander, Saturday was a milestone day. He stepped back up on that mound with hitters -- even though they were teammates -- standing 60 feet, 6 inches away.

It had been nearly eight months since Sale had last done that exercise, and it was a slightly more charged environment last time -- a packed house at Yankee Stadium.

That was the day Sale was positively smoked on the left pinkie finger by Aaron Hicks in the first inning of his second start back from another injury. He walked off the mound dangling his broken finger in disbelief and didn’t pitch again for the rest of the season.

Saturday marked a big step in Sale’s road back to normalcy. Bigger ones will follow. But Sale savored his one inning on Field 1 of the Fenway South complex, throwing 23 pitches while facing five hitters, a group that included , and prospect .

Two pitches in, Verdugo yelled at himself for getting jammed on a tapper that landed just a few feet from home plate.

“For me, it was a big deal,” Sale said. “I know that this kind of stuff happens every day, I’m just more appreciative of the opportunities.

“Last time I faced a hitter, it wasn't fun. So this was a lot of fun. Today was a big day for me just because it's one more step in the right direction.”

To know what this day meant to Sale, all you had to do was keep your eyes on the third-base dugout, which was mostly vacant.

That is where Sale’s wife, Brianne, and sons Rylan, Brayson and Camden took in the action.

And when the inning was over, Sale immediately found them and had a precious group hug with his sons before giving his wife a kiss.

As several Red Sox pitchers threw BP after Sale, he stayed right in that dugout, cheering on his teammates while all three of his sons sat on his lap.

Sale’s family home is less than a half hour from Boston’s Spring Training complex, so it was an easy trip for his family. But also one for them all to appreciate.

“It’s the weekend, kids are out of school, it's fun to have them up here and be a part of it,” Sale said. “The stars aligned, and it worked out.”

Up next for Sale will be two innings of live batting practice, likely on Wednesday. That would position him to make his Grapefruit League debut as soon as March 4 or March 5. With that progression, Sale could make five starts in Spring Training, which is five more than he made in any of the last three springs.

Breaking camp with the Red Sox is something Sale has been unable to do since 2019. This could be the year. And it just so happens that Opening Day -- March 30 at Fenway Park against the Orioles -- is on Sale’s 34th birthday.

But he isn’t thinking that far ahead. As Sale has learned the hard way the last couple of years, he just can’t.

For a first live BP session, Sale was pleased with his arsenal.

“I’m really happy with my fastball command,” he said. “I'm really happy with the shape of my breaking ball. It's just more so consistency, just sharpening the ax.

“The more times I throw, the more consistent I'll get, the more times I'll be able to execute that consecutively. So that's really all I'm working on now -- just repetitions, consistency and just staying on top of the things I’ve got to stay on top of.”