Red Sox

Could a healthy Chris Sale be a candidate for a contract extension?

Could a healthy Chris Sale be a candidate for a contract extension?

LAS VEGAS — With only the 2019 season left on his contract, a healthy Chris Sale may be the most viable target the Red Sox have amongst their stars for an extension. 

Sale is open to extension talks, sources told NBC Sports Boston, with indications that he is more open to those talks than most players of his caliber would be when sitting just a year away from free agency. It’s unclear if there’s any movement on that front yet, with one team source noting that extensions generally brew later in the offseason.

“They come around at all different times for guys,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said generally. “I would prefer to not be [talking] in-season. That would be really more my cutoff date.”

The good news for all parties, and certainly relevant to any extension discussions: a regular offseason now is expected to mean 100 percent health for Sale.

An MRI showed no structural damage to his shoulder, sources said.

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But just how much pain Sale was pitching through at the end of 2018 may be under appreciated, in part because of his reticence to speak on the matter — and in part because of how awkwardly Dombrowski in turn handled that reticence. 

When pressed on Sale’s health at multiple points this offseason, Dombrowski gave the avoidable appearance the Sox were hiding something, before giving a basic explanation Monday that Sale, spotlight averse, wanted to limit what was said.

“Our training staff has cleared him, doctors have cleared him 100 percent,” Dombrowski said, who said Sale has been throwing this winter.

But the severity of Sale’s bursitis in his throwing shoulder was indeed a major factor in the playoffs, when the lefty's velocity dipped, but his success did not. There just wasn’t enough time for the ace lefty to fully recover, and the discomfort became both recurring and excruciating for a pitcher who, had he stayed healthy, may well have won the Cy Young.

Sale went to the disabled list on July 31. He came back for one start in early August, was throwing gas, and went back on the DL again.

Sale had severe tendinitis, which is part and parcel with bursitis. He rested, felt some relief, and then the pain came back worse than ever, sources said. But he gutted through it with the knowledge that, eventually, rest should make that condition fully better.

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“From a rest perspective, perhaps if he’d had more at that time,” Dombrowski said. “But he was cleared to go by everybody, he felt 100 percent, and there was no question that was it. But some of it had to do with coming back at pitching and maybe not being quite at that same point. But there was never any doubt that he was ready to go and OK.”

Sale, of course, wound up briefly hospitalized in the postseason. He joked he was being treated for an infection related to a belly-button ring. But it never took much to connect the dots between the stomach illness he was combatting and the state of his arm, which he was pulling out all stops to treat, and may have included medication that could make him ill.

Sale’s velocity jumped in the middle of the 2018 season, something that probably worked to the detriment of his shoulder. He fell in love, seemingly, with a triple-digit fastball. That's correctable.

“He’s good at 95 with that slider, too,” manager Alex Cora said Monday. “We know what we have. We know what we’re going to do next year."

After leaving some potential money on the table with his current contract — a five-year extension in spring 2013 that has made him $57.5 million, including 2019’s $13.5 million salary — Sale may well want to test the market. He’ll have earned that right as a Hall of Fame track pitcher, a modern-day Randy Johnson. 

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At the same time, maximizing dollars has never appeared a singular goal for Sale. He’s well liked in town, particularly after recording the final out of the World Series, for his success and demeanor alike

There are plenty of players the Sox will want to try to keep long term. But Sale, within reason, may be of a slightly different mindset than others. 

Mookie Betts, a free agent after 2020, has long looked destined to test the open market, unless the Sox pay him in a way comparable to his open-market value — and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado probably need to sign before that value can be gauged accurately. J.D. Martinez is a Scott Boras client, as is Xander Bogaerts. Both are up after ’19, and likely to hit free agency as well.

Durability hasn’t always been Sale’s hallmark, which could give him some incentive to act sooner rather than later. But he's always worked very hard on his fitness, and is so talented that he'll have no shortage of suitors.

Most importantly, there is confidence that he will return for 2019 at full health.

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Mike Yastrzemski matches his grandfather with a 3-HR game

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Mike Yastrzemski matches his grandfather with a 3-HR game

Seventy games into his major league career, Mike Yastrzemski has matched his Hall of Fame grandfather in one category.

Three-homer games.

The younger Yaz went deep three times, including a go-ahead solo blast in the 11th inning, to lead the San Francisco Giants to a wild, 10-9 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night in Phoenix.

The Red Sox legend played 3,308 major league games and the only three-homer game of his career came in his 15th season, on May 19, 1976, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

Here's a look at Mike Yaz's handiwork in a game where the teams combined to hit 12 homers, just the second time in major league history that's happened. 

A solo shot in the third...

A two-run homer in the seventh...

And what proved to be the winner in the 11th:

Mike Yastrzemski, 28, called up May 25, has 16 homers, 45 RBI (including four Friday night) and is hitting .272. The Giants (62-61) are 2 1/2 games out of the NL's second wild-card spot.

Drafted in the 36th round by the Red Sox in 2009 out of St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., Yastrzemski, a left-handed hitting outfielder like his grandfather (but a left-handed thrower), didn't sign, went to Vanderbilt and was drafted in the 14th round by the Orioles in 2013. After six years in the minors with Baltimore, he was traded to the Giants this past March.

Even before the third homer, the MLB Network noted that Mike Yaz was off to a better start in his first 261 plate appearances than grandpa, who hit .266 with 11 homers and 80 RBI as a Red Sox rookie in 1961. 

The Giants come to Fenway Park for a three-game series Sept. 17-19.

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Rick Porcello's Red Sox career is likely winding down, so let's salute what he has meant to the team

Rick Porcello's Red Sox career is likely winding down, so let's salute what he has meant to the team

BOSTON -- Let's just get this out of the way -- under no circumstances should the Red Sox make Rick Porcello a qualifying offer.

He'd be crazy not to sign the one-year, $18 million tender on the spot, in his own blood if he has to, and the team desperately needs to upgrade his spot in the rotation, since Chris Sale ($145 million), David Price ($96 million), Nathan Eovaldi ($51 million), and Eduardo Rodriguez (cheap) aren't going anywhere.

That leaves Porcello as the odd man out, and his performance certainly hasn't merited the extension a number of us believed he deserved before the season (raises hand). He entered his start vs. Friday night vs. the Orioles ranked 68th out of 69 qualified starters in ERA (5.67), and there's nothing misleading about that stat. He has pitched poorly.

We're not here to crush him, however. He has done plenty of that to himself, not to mention dugout flat screens. Instead, with his Red Sox career presumably winding to a close, let us salute his rocky, rollercoaster, and ultimately rewarding tenure.

The Red Sox acquired him in December of 2014 for Yoenis Cespedes and then signed him to a four-year, $82.5 million extension on the eve of the season. Porcello rewarded the faith of GM Ben Cherington by going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA, which contributed to Cherington being relieved of his job that August.

In came Dave Dombrowski, who had shown no interest in extending Porcello with the Tigers. Whatever skepticism Dombrowski may have harbored, the right-hander dispelled it -- and made Cherington's decision look far more prescient -- by delivering one of the most unlikely Cy Young seasons in recent memory.

Porcello went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, leading the AL in strikeout-to-walk ratio and claiming the trophy that no one saw coming.

He followed in 2017 with another cannonball into the toilet, leading the AL in losses (17) and tying a Red Sox record by allowing 38 home runs.

But still he persevered and in 2018 he not only won 17 games as a stable No. 3 starter, he also manned up in the postseason with a pair of pivotal relief outings. When the Red Sox hoisted the World Series trophy, they could point to Porcello as one of the leaders of not just the staff, but the entire clubhouse. Not bad for a guy who looked like a bust in year one, but now would love nothing more than to stay in Boston.

That brings us to Friday night. Porcello gutted out six innings of one-run ball against the Orioles. He wasn't overpowering (one swing and miss), but he kept the ball in the park for the first time in eight starts and survived some hard contact (six balls hit at least 90 mph) to keep the O's in check.

There's no sense in pretending Baltimore is a threat on any side of the ball, but the Orioles had hit Porcello hard in two prior starts, totaling nine runs in nine innings. In the course of beating them on Friday, he crossed the 2,000-inning threshold for his career, a meaningful milestone for a pitcher who considers reliability his calling card.

"Definitely very proud of that," Porcello said. "It's been a tough year, but this is kind of a night where I can look back and say 

I got 6,000 outs in the big leagues and not many people can say they did that. I'm very proud of that and a lot of people have helped me and supported me along the way to be able to get through it, to 2,000 innings. I'm just fortunate enough to be able to stay healthy and do it. It's a nice night and a little side note and a nice little accomplishment."

Manager Alex Cora saluted Porcello and noted the role he'll need to play if the Red Sox are to drag themselves back into contention.

"Two thousand innings at this level, you don't do that just being lucky," Cora said. "You've got to work, and you've got to grind. . . . He was good for us last year. He won a Cy Young before. So, he can put a streak of quality starts just like Chris and the rest of the guys and help us pull this off."

 

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