Red Sox

Chris Sale injury leaves Red Sox with more questions than answers entering 2020

Chris Sale injury leaves Red Sox with more questions than answers entering 2020

BOSTON -- Chris Sale's 2018 ended with his hands thrust overhead in Dodger Stadium. His final act of 2019 was to run those same hands through his hair in the Red Sox clubhouse with six weeks of baseball remaining.

Whatever uncertainty clouded his future following last season, it's nothing compared to the winter that awaits. At least last year, Sale had just dropped Manny Machado to one knee to lift the Red Sox to a championship before embarking on an offseason of rest and recovery.

This year, it's not even September and Sale has almost certainly thrown his final pitch of 2019. He just returned from a visit to Pensacola, Fla., where he received the relatively good news from Dr. James Andrews that he's merely experiencing inflammation in his left elbow and won't need Tommy John surgery.

He'll shut it down for four to six weeks before being reevaluated. The upper end of that timeline takes him right through the conclusion of the regular season and it's hard to imagine the Red Sox pulling off a miracle run to the playoffs without him.

And so ends his 2019 with a lot more questions than answers.

"Everyone talks about last year being a dream season," Sale said. "Personally, this has been kind of a nightmare season."

The real nightmare for the Red Sox will be trying to figure out exactly what they can expect from their ace when next season opens. Sale expressed confidence that he'll be ready for spring training -- "I have no doubts in my mind" -- which sounds nice, but how can he know?

Sale received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow to promote healing and suggested he won't throw until his checkup next month. With the Red Sox out of contention and Sale's five-year, $145 million extension officially kicking in next season, there's no need to rush him back to a mound.

It's possible his follow-up will show more damage than expected, in which case we'd have some clarity on his future. Still, assuming he's told to continue rehabbing, we won't know what 2020 holds until pitchers and catchers arrive in Fort Myers next February.

In the meantime, the Red Sox will have to address holes in their rotation, and it would certainly be nice to know what role Sale will play. Is he going to be an ace or a $150 million drag on the payroll? What's to say we don't end up repeating this dance next year?

"Obviously, I think we've got some things to look at as a whole and try to figure out if there was something that I was doing different, but if anything, I felt like I was back to normal the last few starts, which was encouraging," Sale said. "Then this happens. I go through today, once today is over, we get to tomorrow and do that thing. I'm just trying to slow this down as much as possible. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, I don't want to rush anything. I want to make sure what's going on is right and to get this thing ready to go."

History is littered with great pitchers who hit a rough patch and never recover, like two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Still, there are also plenty of examples of greats who overcome one bad season to regain their prior form, with Justin Verlander the latest example.

Which way Sale goes could determine the future of the organization.

"You look at any pitcher in the big leagues, there's going to be some times where they have a down year, they get hurt, especially as the workload picks up and you start racking up some innings," Sale said. "It's just the culmination of a lot of things coming to the front right now. I'll work through it, deal with it, keep my chin up, keep working, lean on my teammates and family for support and these guys in the training room and we'll get through this.

"It's not the end of the world. It could be worse. That's the mindset I'm going to take through this, it can always be worse. I'll do everything I can to get back on that field as soon as possible and pitch like I'm expected to pitch."

See you in 2020, when hopefully we get some answers.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

MLB Rumors: Brock Holt agrees to deal with Brewers

MLB Rumors: Brock Holt agrees to deal with Brewers

Another beloved member of the Boston Red Sox will be playing for a new team in 2020.

The Milwaukee Brewers and utilityman Brock Holt agreed to a deal on Monday, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Holt spent seven of his eight MLB seasons (2013-19) in Boston, earning two World Series rings over that time. An All-Star in 2015, Holt hit .270 with 23 home runs and 203 RBI during his Red Sox career while playing every position other than pitcher and catcher.

But it wasn't all about what Holt contributed on the field. Above all else, it'll be the 31-year-old's clubhouse presence that will be missed. NBC Sports Boston's own John Tomase recently summarized the immense impact Holt has had on the organization and the city of Boston.

Holt joins a Brewers team that finished 89-73 in 2019 before falling to the World Series champion Washington Nationals in the National League wild-card game.

Former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard attempting MLB comeback

Former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard attempting MLB comeback

Daniel Bard hasn't pitched in the MLB since 2013.

But that isn't going to stop the former Boston Red Sox reliever from attempting an MLB comeback in 2020.

According to Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe, the 34-year-old Bard will try to return to the MLB in the near future. He last pitched in the minors during the 2017 season.

Bard was a first-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2006 MLB Draft and at one point, it appeared that he would be the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon as the team's closer.

In his first two seasons with the Red Sox (2009-2010), Bard was a terrific relief option for the squad. He made 122 appearances and logged a 2.61 ERA in 124 innings pitched with 139 strikeouts. And that continued for most of the 2011 season, as Bard set a Red Sox record at one point with 25 consecutive scoreless appearances.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

However, after that, Bard began to fall apart. It began in September of '11. During the final month of the season, he went 0-4 and had a ridiculous 10.64 ERA amid a Red Sox collapse that led to the departure of Terry Francona as Red Sox manager.

In 2012, Bobby Valentine attempted to convert Bard into a starting pitcher. The results were disastrous. Bard went 5-6 but had a 6.22 ERA and averaged 6.5 walks per nine innings as he struggled to command his pitches.

Following the 2012 season, Bard made just two appearances for the Red Sox in 2013. He spent most of his time with the Pawtucket Red Sox before being designated for assignment in September. After that, he bounced around the league and was seen mostly as a reclamation project. But he could never make any headway on his many minor-league stints.

Bard retired in 2017 and has been working for the Arizona Diamondbacks since then.

It will be interesting to see if any team takes a chance on Bard. After all, he was able to clock 102 on the radar gun at times during his career and had he not lost his command, he may have had a chance to re-emerge as an effective reliever.

But after being away from the majors for seven years and struggling in the minors, it's fair to wonder if Bard can truly figure things out and make a team consider signing him.