Chris Sale

Red Sox to 'reassess' how they handle pitchers after Chris Sale injury

Red Sox to 'reassess' how they handle pitchers after Chris Sale injury

The Boston Red Sox boast the third-best offense in baseball. So, why are they currently six games out of a Wild Card spot?

You can blame the starting rotation, which owns a collective 5.05 ERA and sustained another blow this week when ace Chris Sale received a PRP injection in his left elbow that likely will sideline him for the rest of the 2019 season.

Sale joined Nathan Eovaldi and David Price among Red Sox starters who have battled injuries this season. As it turns out, all three pitchers logged fewer than 10 innings in spring training, as the Sox opted to play it safe with their starters following a run to the 2018 World Series.

In an interview Wednesday on WEEI's "Dale & Keefe," president of baseball operations admitted Boston may change that approach in 2020 based on how things played out this year.

"In the beginning of spring, we were being careful with (Sale), but he also had a little bit of a problem with his toe, so we were trying to be careful with that," Dombrowski said. "We were in a spot where David Price has come off pitching a lot in the postseason (and) Eovaldi. But I think in a situation that — it’ll definitely be something at we reassess going into next year, I’ll guarantee that part of it."

Sale, Price and Eovaldi all struggled out of the gate after their light spring training workloads, with Eovaldi hitting the 60-day disabled list less than a month into the season.

So, will Boston's starters be more involved in 2020 spring training if they're fully healthy? Dombrowski suggested that's a possibility while insisting pitchers must be handled with care.

"You always have to be careful with pitchers," Dombrowski said. "Because I think it’s proven that if a pitcher is tired, they’re more apt to be susceptible to injury. 

"... One of the things we had talked about is being in a situation where we tried to prevent injuries, which is really the thought process there. But guys still got hurt. … I think all in all, it’ll be something that we’ll sit back and assess, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we go into next spring a little bit different."

Add that to the list of several things the Red Sox must do differently in 2020 to return to championship form.

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Chris Sale injury leaves Red Sox with more questions than answers entering 2020

Chris Sale injury leaves Red Sox with more questions than answers entering 2020

BOSTON -- Chris Sale's 2018 ended with his hands thrust overhead in Dodger Stadium. His final act of 2019 was to run those same hands through his hair in the Red Sox clubhouse with six weeks of baseball remaining.

Whatever uncertainty clouded his future following last season, it's nothing compared to the winter that awaits. At least last year, Sale had just dropped Manny Machado to one knee to lift the Red Sox to a championship before embarking on an offseason of rest and recovery.

This year, it's not even September and Sale has almost certainly thrown his final pitch of 2019. He just returned from a visit to Pensacola, Fla., where he received the relatively good news from Dr. James Andrews that he's merely experiencing inflammation in his left elbow and won't need Tommy John surgery.

He'll shut it down for four to six weeks before being reevaluated. The upper end of that timeline takes him right through the conclusion of the regular season and it's hard to imagine the Red Sox pulling off a miracle run to the playoffs without him.

And so ends his 2019 with a lot more questions than answers.

"Everyone talks about last year being a dream season," Sale said. "Personally, this has been kind of a nightmare season."

The real nightmare for the Red Sox will be trying to figure out exactly what they can expect from their ace when next season opens. Sale expressed confidence that he'll be ready for spring training -- "I have no doubts in my mind" -- which sounds nice, but how can he know?

Sale received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow to promote healing and suggested he won't throw until his checkup next month. With the Red Sox out of contention and Sale's five-year, $145 million extension officially kicking in next season, there's no need to rush him back to a mound.

It's possible his follow-up will show more damage than expected, in which case we'd have some clarity on his future. Still, assuming he's told to continue rehabbing, we won't know what 2020 holds until pitchers and catchers arrive in Fort Myers next February.

In the meantime, the Red Sox will have to address holes in their rotation, and it would certainly be nice to know what role Sale will play. Is he going to be an ace or a $150 million drag on the payroll? What's to say we don't end up repeating this dance next year?

"Obviously, I think we've got some things to look at as a whole and try to figure out if there was something that I was doing different, but if anything, I felt like I was back to normal the last few starts, which was encouraging," Sale said. "Then this happens. I go through today, once today is over, we get to tomorrow and do that thing. I'm just trying to slow this down as much as possible. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, I don't want to rush anything. I want to make sure what's going on is right and to get this thing ready to go."

History is littered with great pitchers who hit a rough patch and never recover, like two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Still, there are also plenty of examples of greats who overcome one bad season to regain their prior form, with Justin Verlander the latest example.

Which way Sale goes could determine the future of the organization.

"You look at any pitcher in the big leagues, there's going to be some times where they have a down year, they get hurt, especially as the workload picks up and you start racking up some innings," Sale said. "It's just the culmination of a lot of things coming to the front right now. I'll work through it, deal with it, keep my chin up, keep working, lean on my teammates and family for support and these guys in the training room and we'll get through this.

"It's not the end of the world. It could be worse. That's the mindset I'm going to take through this, it can always be worse. I'll do everything I can to get back on that field as soon as possible and pitch like I'm expected to pitch."

See you in 2020, when hopefully we get some answers.

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Red Sox' Chris Sale optimistic about returning healthy for 2020 season

Red Sox' Chris Sale optimistic about returning healthy for 2020 season

The Red Sox received some good news and bad news on Monday

The good news? Their ace Chris Sale won't need Tommy John surgery after getting his injured elbow checked out by Dr. James Andrews. The bad? Elbow inflammation likely will keep Sale off the mound for the rest of 2019. Before Tuesday's game against the Phillies, manager Alex Cora said a return this season this year will be "almost impossible".

Despite that caveat, Sale remains optimistic about how his meeting with Dr. Andrews went. The left-hander gave an encouraging answer when asked about his confidence in a healthy return in 2020.

"I'm very confident," Sale told reporters on Tuesday. "I know who I am and what I can do on the baseball field when I have all my tools, and I know what we have in this training room. Our doctors, our trainers, our staff, the support from my teammates, my family, my friends. I have no doubts in my mind."

Sale will take it easy for a few days before starting shoulder and forearm strengthening programs, then he hopes to begin throwing again after being re-evaluated in approximately six weeks.

The injury caps off what has been an all-around rough season for Sale. The 30-year-old ends his 2019 campaign with a career-worst 6-11 record and 4.40 ERA.

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