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Sale has flexor strain, will wait a week to throw

@IanMBrowne
March 5, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Chris Sale has a flexor strain in his left elbow, Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke said on Thursday, and has been advised to wait another week before throwing again. That's good news for Sale and the Red Sox. It is unclear how much time Sale

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Chris Sale has a flexor strain in his left elbow, Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke said on Thursday, and has been advised to wait another week before throwing again.

That's good news for Sale and the Red Sox. It is unclear how much time Sale will miss this season, but a source told MLB.com on Wednesday that the Red Sox don’t expect the lefty’s latest elbow issue to keep him out for the season.

Roenicke said that Sale will begin playing catch next week, and if things go well, he'll move on to bullpen sessions and live batting practice.

Sale underwent an MRI from the team’s medical staff on Monday, and the images were sent to Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., for a second opinion on Tuesday and to Dodgers lead physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Wednesday. Roenicke said on Thursday that the most recent image of Sale's elbow was the same as the previous one.

Following Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game against the Tigers, Roenicke said the club was waiting to confer with ElAttrache before setting their plan for Sale in motion. They had already spoken to Andrews. Neither doctor recommended Tommy John surgery, according to reports.

Sale missed the final six weeks of an inconsistent 2019 season with left elbow discomfort.

He visited with Dr. Andrews last August, and the recommendation was that he did not need Tommy John surgery. Instead, Sale had a platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) shot and was shut down from throwing for the remainder of the 2019 season. After a period of rest and rehab, Sale was cleared to resume throwing in November.

All signs were encouraging heading into Spring Training. Sale had already been slated to start the season on the injured list, but that was due to the flu and pneumonia he dealt with for two weeks in February and not his elbow.

But this week, the elbow had become an issue again.

“We were hoping it’d just be the 12 days we kind of thought. Now it’s probably going to be more. Now we’ve got to cover [at least a] month instead of the two weeks we’d hoped for at the beginning,” Roenicke said at the time.

“He wants to get this thing right. However we’re going to proceed from here, we want to make sure we’re doing it the right way and we’re giving it whatever time period that we need to to do things right.”

Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Martín Pérez will be Boston’s front three starters to open the season. The fourth and fifth spots are wide open, with Roenicke contemplating openers for one or two of those spots.

The pool of starting candidates includes Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson, Chris Mazza, Tanner Houck and Kyle Hart, among others.

At this point, the club plans on keeping the electric left arm of Darwinzon Hernandez in the bullpen, though he could factor heavily into an opener scenario. Roenicke even hinted he could go back to starting at some point this season, but the Red Sox are being conservative about moving him back and forth between roles too often.

One thing is clear: Getting a healthy and dominant Sale -- even if not at the beginning of the season -- would be a huge boost to Boston’s quest of getting back to the postseason in ’20.

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