BOSTON -- With the Red Sox getting ready to power through the final six weeks of what is likely to be their best regular season ever, the last thing ace Chris Sale wants to do is miss any more starts.
But a recurring bout of mild left shoulder inflammation left the Cy Young contender with no choice but to go back on the 10-day disabled list on Saturday afternoon. His DL stint is retroactive to Wednesday.
Sale returns to the DL less than a week after he came off it. He missed the first two weeks of August with inflammation in his pitching shoulder, but was dominant in his return last Sunday -- holding the Orioles to one hit and striking out 12 in five scoreless frames.
"Just a little bit more of the same [feeling in the shoulder from] the last episode we had," said Sale. "Just trying to stay on top of things and get it better."
In a corresponding roster move, Boston recalled right-hander Brandon Workman from Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox have not yet named a replacement for Sale's scheduled start on Sunday against the Rays at Fenway Park but manager Alex Cora indicated it will be a bullpen-type of game, with Hector Velazquez a top candidate to be the "opener."
"I think it's a smart move," Cora said of putting Sale back on the DL. "In these situations, there's a process. Before the start, during the start and after the start. It was taking him a while after the start, and where we're at right now -- not only as an organization, but [for him] as an individual -- we have to take care of him. This guy is very important for what we're trying to accomplish, and if he needs to skip one, two, three, whatever, we're willing to do that. He'll be back. Like he said, he feels better than the last time we put him on the DL. So, he'll get his rest, he'll go through treatment, and we'll go from there."
As for Sale, one of the fiercest competitors in the game, he is just trying to stay upbeat. The Red Sox went into Saturday night's game with an 87-36 record and a 10 1/2-game lead in the American League East.
"To be honest, [this is] quite miserable for me," Sale said. "At the same time, I'm not going to sit around and pout but keep my chin up. I'm on the best team that's ever walked the planet. I've got good teammates that have my back and I appreciate that."
How concerned is Sale?
"Not very," Sale said. "I know it's kind of the same thing we had last time. A little bit less in the pain region and mobility range than last time so that's a good sign. Just keep chugging along. It's definitely less [discomfort] than it was last time. Like I said, just didn't bounce back, it wasn't really responding the way we wanted it to and, given kind of where we are, it was kind of the right call to give it some rest and stay on top of it.
"You don't want to try to play catch-up during a time like this so, like I said, obviously terrible timing, not exactly the most ideal situation."
Sale, 29, is in the midst of a Cy Young-caliber campaign -- with a 12-4 record and an American League-leading 1.97 ERA through 23 starts. He's riding a 28-inning scoreless streak, and his run of 68 consecutive innings without allowing a home run is the longest in the Majors this season.
The seven-time All-Star, now in his second season with the Red Sox, also leads the Majors in opponents' batting average (.175), opponents' OPS (.518), WHIP (0.85) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.50).
In Sale's return to action last Sunday in Baltimore, there was no indication that anything was wrong with his shoulder. But when he ramped back up in the ensuing days, he felt something.
"When I started throwing again, [my shoulder] just kind of didn't respond the way we wanted it to," said Sale. "[It] didn't really bounce back the way we wanted it to. [We'll] just kind of adjust and kind of map things out and see where it takes us."
For Boston and its ace, doing well in playoffs is still the most important thing.
"Yeah, no doubt," said Sale. "We've still got a lot of season left. We don't want to overlook that. At the same time, we want to be able to kind of sprint across the finish line -- not limp into it. Like I said, [it's] bad timing, obviously. Anybody who knows me knows I'm not the biggest fan of what's going on right now, but it is what it is. You deal with it, keep your chin up, put one foot in front of the other and just keep grinding."
Without Sale, the Red Sox have a rotation of David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Christopher Johnson. Eduardo Rodriguez could be back in the near future to give the team a fifth starter until Sale gets back. Rodriguez will start a Minor League rehab assignment for Double-A Portland on Monday.
"When he comes back, he's going to be fine," Cora said of Sale. "That's how we feel. I trust our medical staff. I trust the player. And I do feel he's going to come back."