FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ace Chris Sale arrived with the Red Sox a couple of years ago thirsting for the chance to pitch in the playoffs and win a World Series title. As he chased those things, he fell in love with the sports passion of Boston and fit in
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ace Chris Sale arrived with the Red Sox a couple of years ago thirsting for the chance to pitch in the playoffs and win a World Series title. As he chased those things, he fell in love with the sports passion of Boston and fit in seamlessly with his new organization.
Even though he did get that World Series trophy -- unleashing the filthiest of sliders imaginable to Manny Machado last October to finish the job -- Sale's priorities haven't changed.
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Now he wants to win more trophies instead of the one he has. And in what should be construed as good news for the Red Sox and their fans, he wants to keep doing it in Boston.
This is newsworthy because Sale is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2019 season. Well, at least he will be if no contract can be reached between now and then.
While some players like to talk about exploring their options, Sale made it pretty clear on Wednesday option one wouldn't require a change of address form.
"I would love to," said Sale, when asked about staying with Boston. "I think I've said that since after my first year, this is a special place. This is a special group of people. A very special city and an unbelievable fan base. Not to mention the fact that we've got a hell of a team and we're going to have that team for a few years to come. It's a good place for me, it's a good spot. I love playing here. I'd love to keep playing here. We'll see how it works out.
"That's what all this stuff is for. You have agents, contract stuff, I'm going to let them play that out. If it works, it works. If not, it's been a blast. I have no hard feelings, no ill will. Just keep doing what I do."
It will be interesting to see how things progress in the coming weeks, because Sale has never really dealt with an expiring contract.
"I've been very lucky throughout my career to never have to worry about that," said Sale. "I got drafted, two and a half years later I signed an extension with Chicago. So I never really had that moment in time where it was the anxiety of free agency or this and that. I've always just kind of been under contract and just gone out there and played. So for me, that's just kind of the same thing I'm going to do."
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At Winter Weekend in January, Sale said his phone was on if the Red Sox wanted to talk contract. On Wednesday, he said he hadn't received that call yet.
It would make sense that the Red Sox want to inventory Sale's health in the coming weeks to make sure he is completely over the left shoulder inflammation that limited him during the second half of last season.
"Well, he's healthy, he's cleared to have a normal Spring Training for us. He's in a normal throwing program," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "Doctors have cleared him. He feels great. He's another guy I would like to have in the organization for an extended period."
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Though they haven't released a lot of specifics, the Red Sox and Sale have worked closely to design a program aimed at eliminating those surprising shoulder woes of last season.
"We have a couple different plans," said Sale. "Obviously through Spring Training, through the beginning of the year, and throughout the year. We're obviously still at the very beginning of this stage, but I think that's personally for me, that's probably the biggest thing for me going into this year. Not missing a quarter of the year like I did last year, and being able to not only go wire to wire, but try to be better throughout the whole year and be ready when October rolls around."
A year ago, the Red Sox were very conservative with Sale and the other starters during Spring Training. In many ways, that's what was so surprising about the lanky lefty developing the inflammation he experienced in August.
But after the work Sale did this offseason, he doesn't expect it will be a problem again.
"That's in the rearview mirror and we put in some good work this offseason to do some things to not only strengthen it but just get a better foundation, not only with my body, but with my shoulder as well," said Sale. "So those are the things that we've done. That was obviously the start of the process in the offseason. Next step is obviously Spring Training and then we're off to the races."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.