FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Chris Sale doesn't believe in stealing. When he bemoans his failure to earn the $ 145 million extension he signed with the Red Sox signed four years ago, he sounds genuine.
So this prompted a question that would probably be crazy to ask anyone else: Did Sale ever consider opting out of the final two years of his contract this fall as a means of balancing that ledger?
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It turns out the answer is no -- he's got kids to raise, he had rehab to finish, and his agent handled the official opt-in -- but he intends on repaying his debt to the Red Sox from the mound.
"I mean, you definitely think about it because don't get me wrong, dude, I feel like a piece of (expletive)," Sale said. "Let's not sugarcoat it. I feel like a piece of (expletive) for making all this money and not doing my job. Straight up. Just being honest.
"But in a different viewpoint, I have a couple of years to go prove it, too. It's a tricky business."
First things first, Sale must return to the mound and stay healthy, and he seemed pleased with the live BP he threw on Wednesday. Other than hitting new teammate Masataka Yoshida in the hip/thigh with a fastball, Sale felt he had good command and arm strength.
Even more telling was his demeanor, which was calm, loose, and borderline giddy. He stopped to play with his towheaded son after his outing, he did multiple rounds of interviews, and he practically skipped out of the clubhouse.
"Definitely a step in the right direction," Sale said. "Very encouraging. I felt like I had more energy this time around. And that's kind of what we're looking for. I checked off another box, and here we are."
A healthy Sale considerably raises the ceiling on how well the Red Sox can play this year. The seven-time All-Star hasn't even totaled 50 innings over the last three years, thanks to Tommy John surgery, a broken rib, a broken pinky, and a broken wrist. His last great season came in 2017, when he joined Pedro Martinez as the only Red Sox pitchers to strike out 300 batters in a season.
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Now he's hoping to join fellow veterans Corey Kluber and James Paxton atop a Red Sox rotation that could either be a major strength or a disastrous weakness. The fact that Sale seemed so outwardly pleased on Wednesday at least leaves Option A in play.
"My satisfaction comes from just being here," he said. "I know I've said it a lot, but I'm just very appreciative of being in this spot, it took a lot of time, a lot of effort, from everybody, not just myself. From top to bottom here, they put in a lot of work. And that feels like that's a big motivating factor. I'm not doing this just for me."
So no, Sale never considered leaving $ 55 million on the table. He still intends to earn that money, though, and maybe more beyond it.
"I really just want to be here," he said. "And hopefully once this (deal) is done, we'll figure something else out, too."