BOSTON -- A between-starts bullpen doesn't generally require the attendance of the entire pitching staff, but this was no ordinary pitcher.
When Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale took the mound hours before Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays in advance of Thursday's start vs. them, he was greeted by a dozen teammates pressed against the bullpen fence to watch him throw, including virtually every pitcher on the roster and both catchers.
They were there to see if they could pick up something that pitching coach Dana LeVangie, manager Alex Cora, or bullpen coach Craig Bjornson had missed, but also to provide encouragement to the most important member of the staff during his most trying season.
"It was teammates being teammates. Just being there and watching," Cora said. "Everybody knows about the game and obviously pitchers know about mechanics and usage and all that, but I think for them to be there it means a lot. It means a lot where we're at as a team and you never know, someone might pick something up that me, Dana or CB hasn't seen. It was good. Sandy (Leon) and Christian (Vazquez) were there too, so you don't see that often. I think that was good for the team to let him know, 'Hey, we're here for you.'"
This has been anything but a typical season for Sale, who is 3-9 with a career-worst 4.27 ERA. He has been particularly bad in his last four starts, going 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA and 29 hits in 21.1 innings.
Sale has repeatedly excoriated himself for feeling lost and being a liability, but the Red Sox believe they can unlock whatever is holding him back.
"You watch, you watch games, and you try to go through the opposition thought process, what they look for, what they did," Cora said. "I think the Dodgers did an outstanding job over the weekend of getting that pitch count up with our starters. Eddie (Rodriguez) did a good job avoiding that, but with David (Price) and Chris, there were a lot of foul balls. That's something that's been happening a lot, especially with those two guys, but we do feel we can make adjustments."
The Blue Jays aren't necessarily the best team for Sale to see. He's 0-3 against them with a 7.98 ERA this season and has allowed four home runs in 14.2 innings.
"It's been tough," Cora said. "He started here the home opener with the foul balls and the ground balls and all of that. We'll see how he does Thursday. I think we have a good idea where we have to go to make this better and he knows it. We're looking forward to Thursday and seeing if we can actually execute the plan and give us a good outing."
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