Chris Sale's 17-strikeout performance this week made you almost forget about the lost pitcher with an 8.50 ERA after four starts who was saying, "I don't know if I've ever pitched like this in my life."
While Sale insisted he was healthy back when he was struggling, Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic reports that the Red Sox ace lefty was dealing with a previously undisclosed toe injury that contributed to the alarming drop in velocity and led to an 0-5 April.
“Chris’ spring training was different,” Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie told McCaffrey. “We tried to do the exact same things we did last year. The only difference is, Chris was going through contract negotiations, [but] he had a little bit of a toe injury that slowed him down a little bit, so there were some things that led up to the early-on stuff. I basically felt like he was going through his spring training, sort of in April.”
Another adjustment, LeVangie said, was Sale's arm path. “We wanted a cleaner line going back, rather than straight behind him and it didn’t allow him to work more back to front in his delivery.”
The improved extension the arm path tweak has added velocity to the fastball and, according to The Athletic Analytics guru Eno Sarris, Sale is releasing the ball an inch closer to the batter than before. "It doesn't allow the hitter to see the ball so long," said LeVangie.
Sale hit 96 mph once on the Fenway gun while striking out 17 Rockies on Tuesday and while the days of him regularly topping out at 97-99 appear gone, he's been effective at 93-94 with a devastating slider and there's no arguing with his recent numbers: a 1.29 ERA in three May starts with 10, 14 and 17 strikeouts.
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