Red Sox

Clayton Kershaw weighs in on Chris Sale's struggles: 'It's not like he lost it . . . he'll find it'

Clayton Kershaw weighs in on Chris Sale's struggles: 'It's not like he lost it . . . he'll find it'

Few pitchers know what it's like to be Chris Sale at his best, but Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is one of them. 

The three-time Cy Young Award winner also knows how unsettling it can feel to be a pitcher of Sale's caliber who must learn to live with stuff that begins to inevitably degrade. So it was illuminating to hear Kershaw's thoughts on Sale's rough start to 2019.

"I know Chris enough to know he's pretty mentally strong," Kershaw said this week from his eighth All-Star Game. "I wouldn't worry about him. I also know from watching from the other side, it doesn't look like it's that far off. He punched out 17 guys at one point this year. He's still punching out guys at a crazy rate. The velocity, the break, everything looks like it's still there. It's not like he lost it. It's just a matter of figuring out in his brain what he needs to do. His loss is a lot of people's best. It doesn't look that bad from the outside."

Kershaw once routinely threw 96-98 mph, just like Sale. He's averaging a career-low 90.5 mph on his fastball this year and has yet to break 93. But that hasn't stopped him from going 7-2 with a 3.09 ERA and striking out 91 in 99 innings.

His days of posting sub-2.00 ERAs and striking out 300 may be over, but his ability to win games and navigate difficult lineups remains intact.

"I don't think you think about it," Kershaw said. "You don't think of it as a conscious change. For me, it's pitch the exact same and then let the hitters determine what you need to do to get them out. Sometimes that's throwing different things at different times, and being a little less predictable. I know I'm pitching differently, I guess, but in my head it feels the same."

The mental grind can wear on even the best pitchers, but Kershaw sees Sale as particularly strong in this regard.

"What we go through on a day-in, day-out basis, no one understand that," Kershaw said. "As a starting pitcher, it can be challenging when you don't pitch well to sit there and stew about it for four days. Just seeing his mannerisms, his composure, his competitiveness, he's a guy you admire."

Kershaw expects Sale to rebound. The Red Sox left-hander is an uncharacteristic 3-8 with a 4.04 ERA, but he has still struck out 153 in 107 innings, thrown a shutout, and authored a 17-strikeout effort vs. the Rockies.

"If that's still in there, from two months ago, it's still in there somewhere, for sure," Kershaw said. "He'll find it.

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Merloni: Why Alex Cora could return as Red Sox manager in 2021

Merloni: Why Alex Cora could return as Red Sox manager in 2021

Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways last week as a result of the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. But is there a chance he could return as Boston's manager in 2021?

That'll depend on the length of Cora's impending suspension. The ex-Red Sox skipper is expected to receive at least a one-year ban for his role in the Astros scandal, and it could exceed that if MLB finds wrongdoing by the 2018 Red Sox in their current investigation.

The Red Sox, though, believe they'll get off scot-free. If that's the case, Cora could be a managerial candidate again in 2021 and thus a reunion with Boston would be a possibility.

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Thursday on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight," Lou Merloni explained why it would make sense to hire an interim manager like bench coach Ron Roenicke for the 2020 season and then explore options -- potentially Cora -- next offseason.

To me, I don't think Chaim Bloom his first hire for a manager he goes out and hires the best of what's left ... The next manager, I don't think you want to just take what's best. You want to wait and, you know, that's why you want to go interim for a year, and then you look at a bigger pool. One that may include Alex Cora ... 

Cora's a longshot. But we've got to see what happens with the investigation. We've got to hear from him after the investigation. We've got to see how the summer goes, the PR, how Roenicke does. I think you say, 'Ron, you're the manager of the team. We'll re-evaluate at the end of the year, there's no promises, I'm not going to give you a four-year deal, and you'll be up for the job next year too. We'll see what happens.'

Given Cora's current reputation around the league for his involvement in the Astros cheating scandal, it's difficult to imagine the Red Sox bringing him back. However, owner John Henry reportedly had every intention of keeping Cora, so maybe it wouldn't be so farfetched after all.

Tomase: Handicapping the Red Sox managerial candidates

Lou Merloni: Red Sox 'believe they will [get off scot-free]'

Lou Merloni: Red Sox 'believe they will [get off scot-free]'

The Boston Red Sox are facing a lot of unexpected uncertainty at this stage in the offseason. The team fired their manager Alex Cora amid a sign-stealing scandal from his time with the Houston Astros. And now, they're searching for a replacement.

At this point in the offseason, there aren't a lot of options available. And most of the best candidates may come internally.

That said, the Red Sox will want to make sure that none of those internal candidates, namely Ron Roenicke, were involved in any sort of sign stealing during Cora's Red Sox tenure.

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And just how would they do that? Lou Merloni offered up a potential solution on NBC Sports Boston's Early Edition on Thursday night.

"What you do is you don't even name the manager," Merloni said. "You go into spring training if you have to, whenever this investigation is over. Roenicke runs the team. [Jason] Varitek has more responsibility in camp.

"And when the report comes out -- and if it's what they believe it is, that they're clean -- then Roenicke's the manager, 'Tek's the bench coach and you go from there with no promises of the future and you just say this is the way we go. I think that's the easiest transition for everyone in that locker room."

This definitely would be a sensible route for the team to take. Essentially, they can have Roenicke continue to serve as the manager without officially naming him the manager until they know the results of the investigation.

And according to Merloni, the team does believe that Roenicke and other members of their staff are clean and as a result, the team won't be punished.

"I'm hearing that they believe they are [going to get off scot-free]," Merloni said. "They believe that what they're told is true and that they didn't do anything. And if they didn't do anything, there's no reason for punishment."

It's unclear exactly when the MLB's investigation will be complete, but this will certainly be something to watch moving forward. For the time being though, the Red Sox seem content to stick with what they have provided that everything comes back clean.