Red Sox

Red Sox starters set dubious mark in first two games

Red Sox starters set dubious mark in first two games

The Boston Red Sox starting pitchers have set a dubious mark to begin the 2019 season. And we're only at the season's second day.

In the first two games, both Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi struggled to contain the long-ball. Each pitcher gave up three home runs in their first start of the season. That is the first time that has happened for the Red Sox in over 100 years, per Alex Speier of The Boston Globe.

Even worse, the team had allowed eight home runs in their first 10 innings, per Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe. Last season, they didn't allow their eighth homer until 11 games into the season.

Obviously, it's very early in the season, so the Red Sox pitching staff has plenty of time to figure things out. And even if they do struggle, the team's stacked lineup will be able to help keep them competitive with their offense. But still, the starters will have to improve greatly moving forward, especially considering that the Red Sox don't exactly have a proven bullpen.

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Chris Sale might not be ready for opening day, but he's ready to make amends for 2019

Chris Sale might not be ready for opening day, but he's ready to make amends for 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- And now for the non-cheating portion of Chris Sale's first press conference in six months, also known as the part that's most relevant to the team's chances in 2020 . . .

While Sale's frank discussion of the Astros cheating scandal and the possibility that the Red Sox won't come out of the league's investigation unscathed will be sure to dominate headlines, Sale also spoke at length about his health and readiness to erase the disappointment of 2019.

The good news is that Sale believes his elbow is healthy. The bad news is that he contracted pneumonia two weeks ago and is still limited by the illness, which could jeopardize his availability on opening day.

"I got sick and tried to get over it for a couple of days, got a little bit worse, went back to the doctor and he was like, 'You've got pneumonia.' Well, that's inconvenient," Sale said. "What are you going to do? You deal with it and move on. Took some medicine, starting to move around a little bit, trying to get my stamina back up. I'm over the hump now. The worst of it's behind me, and now get back to doing baseball stuff."

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Sale hasn't pitched since shutting it down last August. What he described as a "major injury" to his elbow required a second opinion from noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who proscribed rest and a platelet rich plasma injection, much to Sale's relief.

After months of therapy and strengthening, Sale returned to the rubber this winter and ended up throwing six or seven times off a mound, by his estimation.

"I feel better than I have in a long time, actually," he said. "I've never taken that time off before. I don't know if since I started playing baseball if I've had that time off. Obviously it's something you don't want to have to go through, that was miserable, but there's silver linings in everything. You try to take the positives in every crappy scenario that comes up. I think that time off helped my entire body regenerate, my shoulder, my elbow, my forearm, every muscle in my body got a long break and a time to heal. I think in the end it will help me out in the long run."

The misery Sale wasn't related to pain or uncertainty, but his absence.

"Just not throwing, not playing," he said. "Being in Florida in August, I've never done that, I've never not traveled with a team. Watching my team play from my bed or from my couch at my house is just a weird feeling. That's uncharted territory for me.

"Until you start throwing again, you don't know what it feels like. I can do all these exercises, I can lift every weight, I can do strength tests, I can move my arm in all different directions, but until you throw a baseball, you have no idea what you're working with. That was a great day for me, starting to throw again and actually seeing the progress we had made in the training room translate to the field."

Manager Ron Roenicke would like his pitchers to make six starts this spring in order to avoid a repeat of last year's stumble out of the gates. Sale might already be too far behind to reach that threshold in time for the opener in Toronto on March 26.

"I hope not," he said. "Whatever's best, that's what we're going to do. I trust these guys, I trust the process we have. Over the next couple of weeks we're going to map out a throwing program. I'm getting off the mound tomorrow, and then we'll build up to live BPs from that, but taking basically two weeks off right before spring training is not ideal."

If there's a silver lining to Sale's down 2019, which saw him go a career-worst 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA, it's that he was able to reflect on what went wrong while he threw what he described as "batting practice" in too many of his starts.

"You learn a lot about yourself when you're just sitting around with nothing going on," Sale said, adding, "As bad as I was last year, I learned a lot, and that's going to help me moving forward."

Chris Sale doesn't sound quite so convinced of Red Sox' sign-stealing innocence as his teammates

Chris Sale doesn't sound quite so convinced of Red Sox' sign-stealing innocence as his teammates

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A parade of Red Sox players and executives has spent a month assuring us of their innocence and inevitable exoneration once MLB completes its investigation into sign-stealing during the championship 2018 season.

Leave it to plainspoken and accountable Red Sox ace Chris Sale to offer a more nuanced opinion on Sunday.

Speaking publicly for the first time since August, Sale spent about a third of his 30-minute press conference detailing his frustrations with the actions of the 2017 Astros, but he didn't let the Red Sox or manager Alex Cora off the hook when it came to the subject of 2018 and how fans might question the team's accomplishments.

"It's tough, but I understand it," he said. "It's part of the gig. Given what happened with the Astros and then AC coming over and possibly bringing something over, I understand it. They're only trying to do their job and make right by all this."

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Sale acknowledged speaking to investigators this winter, and he spoke passionately about wanting to leave the game in better shape than he found it.

"I want to help make this right," he said. "Is it frustrating? Yeah. It took 30 minutes out of one of my days in the offseason? Whatever. But to get the truth and to make this a better game, I'm in. That's what I've talked about basically this whole interview, getting all this right and making this a better game when I leave."

With an investigation hanging over them, the Red Sox struck a decidedly more muted tone than other outraged opponents, with players like L.A.'s Cody Bellinger and Cincinnati's Trevor Bauer blasting Houston as unrepentant cheaters.

"Yeah, it sucks. But what am I going to do? Am I going to hold them at gunpoint?" Sale asked. "Am I going to sit here and curse them out through a bunch of cameras? If I have something to say to them I know those guys. I can get one of their numbers and text them and talk to them face-to-face or whatever. It happened. What are you going to do about it? You can sit around and cry about it or I can get my ass to work and try and win a championship."

Sale does wonder about one start. The Astros pounded him for nine hits and seven runs, including three homers, in Game 1 of the 2017 ALDS. That was Sale's first playoff start, and he has always wondered if Houston knew what was coming.

"I think they ran out of fireworks in Houston," he said. "That guy on the train, I must have kept his job for another year. That was tough. I was standing out there on the mound and saying, 'How the hell are they doing …' They were hitting breaking balls over the fence, hitting fastballs at their neck. Yeah, it crosses your mind. But what kind of idiot do you look like if they actually weren't doing anything? I'm not going to sit there and say they were because I don't have 100 percent evidence. I guess there is in the investigation, but in that specific scenario I don't know.

"You kind of chalk it up to they were a great team that year. It was my first playoff start and I didn't know what I was getting myself into. It happened quick. I was sitting in the locker room afterward and like, 'Man, what just happened.' Knowing what I know now, could it be? Maybe. I'm not here to point fingers. I'm not here to blame anybody. Nothing I do or say today is going to change anything from that start or 10 starts ago or eight years ago."

Sale admitted that players could take matters into their own hands and police the game on the field. Sale did exactly that in 2014 with the White Sox, when he drilled Detroit's Victor Martinez, reportedly in the belief that Martinez was being relayed signs from center field.

"It will be interesting to see how this plays out," Sale said. "I think you're going to see some stuff happen this year. I don't know if it is right, wrong, or indifferent. Guys are certainly welcome to handle things how they want. Different people handle different things differently. And in this scenario I don't think there is any right or wrong way. Guys are going to do what they feel is necessary. I think some people feel more cheated than others, and rightfully so."

And that brings us back to the Red Sox. At the end of Sale's remarks, a reporter basically tried to put words in his mouth that the Red Sox won without cheating, and Sale didn't take the bait.

"It's under investigation right now," he said. "Until that comes out, no one's going to believe what I say. We can sit up here as players and an organization and say all the things we want, but until the hammer drops, that's when the truth comes out. Just kind of wasted breath for me to sit up here and keep talking about it."

Quite the contrary. He had already said quite a bit.