Red Sox

In Year 2, Sale looks for staying power

In Year 2, Sale looks for staying power

Maybe it shouldn’t have come off as a revelation, maybe it was obvious. Of course, Chris Sale would feel amped up in his first year in Boston. Who wouldn't want to try to make a strong first impression?

Yet, when Sale admitted as much publicly in January at Winter Weekend, it still felt a surprise. Because he looked completely unmoved a year ago. And he was so good for so long.

Being too hyped provides a reasonable explanation for Sale's performance drop at the end of the season: he was worn out after he sprinted out of the gate. Everyone seems to have settled on that explanation, it should be noted, for Sale’s drop-off. But the lefty is not the type to come out and directly say, “I was gassed.” Not because he’s disconnected from reality, but because he doesn’t want to perceived as an excuse-maker.

But look: if you get tired, you can’t repeat your delivery.

“Repeating your mechanics is probably the most important thing about pitching,” Sale said at spring training in a general discussion about his work. “If you have to practice from five different arm slots, that’s a lot of things to remember. So, the more you can kind of do the same thing over and over with the same grip, the same foot — start, landing spot, the whole nine. That’s when you can kind of start sharpening your, getting better. Just trying to attack.”

Sale faced the Yankees five times in 2017 and went 0-3. Did that familiarity hurt him? He won’t go there.

“It’s part of the gig. I’m not the first person to ever face the same team five or six times a year, and at the same time, as many times as they’re adjusting to me, I should be adjusting to them,” Sale said. “I just think you got to be professional. It doesn’t matter if you face 'em five times. You get crushed the last four times, you take the ball that fifth time expecting to win a ball game. For me it’s not exactly who I’m facing or what batter’s in the box, it’s more kind of just me and Sandy [Leon] or me and Christian [Vazquez] kind of just working together and trying to get through the game.”

Still, what felt so remarkable about Sale’s small admission that he wanted to impress in his first year in Boston is that, more than anyone in recent Red Sox history, he did not look like a person concerned with perception. There was never a sign in his body language, never a hint. He appeared impervious to the big, bad, Boston spotlight — in no small part because he dominated. 

Don’t let the end of 2017 erase your memory of how damn good Sale was (17-8, 2.90 ERA, 308 strikeouts. 0.970 WHIP), and for how long it looked as if he would win the American League Cy Young award. He was not Pedro Martinez, but the electricity of his starts provided the closest thing to Pedro yet.

We knew Sale has always carried himself with a certain cool and calm (aside from one infamous incident with the White Sox where he cut up jerseys behind closed doors). But to hear what was brewing underneath, virtually undetected — well, how does one learn that? How does one so thoroughly avoid wearing their emotions on their sleeve?

In Sale’s case, it seems he considered the alternative.

“You guys would have chewed me up and spit me out if that was the case,” Sale said smiling. “When I came in here, I was really, really focused on just kind of going about my business. I didn’t want to bother anybody. I didn’t want to get in the way. I wanted to come in, work hard, get my things done and do it at 100 percent...I’m going to do what I got to do and try not to mess with anybody else.

“It’s always easy to judge from outside looking in. But once you put the shoes on and you actually walk in someone else’s shoes, it’s a completely different story. So yeah I mean, you know what to expect [in year two in Boston]. It's a big-city market. Big media outlet. Fans are very passionate, high expectations, and honestly, I enjoy that. That's kind of what we show up for, that's what we work for. When you have fans coming to the park every day expecting you guys to win, it puts little sense of urgency on it. I enjoy it, it brings energy to the park.”

Sale gets recognized around town. The Red Sox experience is fully upon him.

“People come up. It’s cool, everyone is really respectful,” Sale said. “That’s the fun thing about all this, is even when people see you or do recognize you, it’s always like, ‘Oh my gosh, we love the Red Sox. We’re season-ticket holders,’ and as much as they thank me for their time, I thank them for theirs. Because without them, I don’t have a job. And I’m basically nothing. It’s nice. Obviously, Boston fans are scattered everywhere. I mean we go to Seattle, and there’s 15 people outside of our hotel. That’s fun, you know? That’s part of the passion and the fun and the energy that they bring for us. That helps us go out there and perform for them.”

He is one of the more fascinating Red Sox to listen to, in part because he’s so skilled at his craft. But don’t expect Sale to all of a sudden be in the spotlight more, though, or turn into a media darling, a la Pedro. When Sale speaks, he’s an intriguing listen, but he’s not necessarily going to start speaking a ton more in his second year. Which is, in a small way, a shame. But authenticity is what matters, and if the authentic Sale is what he has presented — and we have no evidence contrary — then that is what fans or media should want.

“I would say, yeah, that’s not my really style. I’m not big on being seen, being heard,” Sale said. “I think you need [people who are more outgoing like] that. Obviously, that’s a fun characteristic to have around and have on your team and have in your corner. But for me, I’d rather get the work done, do the work and kind of enjoy it afterwards."

As has been detailed often this spring, he has a plan to gradually build up this year so that he’s doing the work even better in 2018.

“I think everybody has a responsibility as a professional in general to bring something more to the table every year,” Sale said. “And if you’re doing the same thing over and over, it’s going to get stagnant. I think not only in life, but especially in sports, no matter whether it’s good, indifferent. You need to try to bring not only your best, but something different. Maybe something more. And if you’re not, if you’re not shooting to be better, you’re kind of cheating yourself and you’re cheating your teammates. 

"It’s not only myself, but it’s everybody. Everybody needs to make another step, try to be better than they were last year.”



As Pitch-Clock Era begins, don't forget about foul balls, David Price tweets

As Pitch-Clock Era begins, don't forget about foul balls, David Price tweets

A new era begins this week for Major League Baseball - The Pitch-Clock Era - at least in spring training games. And it sounds as if the Red Sox' David Price is no fan.

The 538 article Price linked to in the tweet actually observes that foul balls might be as much or more of a culprit in lengthening games. There have been nearly 12 percent more foul balls in the past twenty years, according to 538 research, with about half the increase in the number of pitches in 2017 and 2018 attributed to fouled off pitches.

And Price is correct in that the 20-second pitch clock will reset with a pitcher steps off or makes or fakes a pick-off throw.

The clock will be introduced in spring training games that began this week, but the umpires will not enforce it until beginning next week in games. The rules are akin to the ones the minor leagues have had in place for years.

  • The batter needs to be in the box with at least five seconds remaining on the clock
  • The pitcher has to begin his windup or motion or come to a set position before the 20-second timer expires. 
  • The pitch itself does not need to be thrown before the expiration of the timer. 
  • The clock isn't used on the first pitch of an at-bat and begins before the second pitch when the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher.
  • If there is a pickoff play, wild pitch or passed ball, the clock resets when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the catcher is in position.
  • If a pitcher fakes a pickoff throw or steps off with runners on, the clock is reset.
  • If there is a foul ball or other dead ball, the timer is not used on the next pitch.
  • If there’s a mound visit or the catcher exits the box for some reason, the clock is stopped and not used on the next pitch.
  • If an umpire calls time, the clock is not used on the next pitch.
  • A ball is awarded for a pitcher violation, a strike is awarded for a batter violation (i.e. if a hitter is not in the box with at least five seconds left on the clock).

So, the clock has started on David Price and the rest of MLB. After a week of non-enforcement, umps will then begin telling batters and pitchers that they would've been in violation but not penalizing them. Later in spring training, after any alterations in the rules following talks between MLB and its Players Association, umpires will start the ball and strike penalties.

As for the regular season, it won't be used yet. Though Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to implement it unilaterally, he is seeking Players Association approval before doing so.

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Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis headline Red Sox lineup vs. Yankees

Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis headline Red Sox lineup vs. Yankees

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fresh off their win over Northeastern to open spring training games, the Red Sox get to play against major leaguers on Saturday.

The Yankees are in town for a 1:05 p.m. matchup at JetBlue Park. Here’s the Red Sox lineup. . .

1. Gorkys Hernández, LF
2. Sandy Leon, C
3. Rafael Devers DH
4. Rusney Castillo CF
5. Bryce Brentz RF
6. Michael Chavis 3B
7. Tzu-Wei Lin 2B
8. Josh Ockimey 1B
9. C.J. Chatham SS 
Josh Smith, RHP

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said earlier this week that Marcus Walden, Travis Lakins, Erasmo Ramirez, and “some hard-thrower from the minor leagues that’s going to shock everybody” are available out of the bullpen. That hard-thrower he mentioned turns out to be Brian Ellington, 26, a right-hander who actually has 97 games of major league experience, including 42 with the Miami Marlins last season.

Lakins will be the name to watch out of the pen on Saturday. Like Darwinzon Hernandez, who appeared Friday against Northeastern, he’s an intriguing prospect you’ll likely see in the major leagues sometime this season.

Rafael Devers and Sandy Leon will be the only regulars taking the field vs. the Yankees, but the team’s top prospect Michael Chavis will be worth watching. Chavis, the third baseman Saturday, will be moved around the infield throughout spring training as Cora figures out a way to eventually find him a major league roster spot.

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