Dana LeVangie

Report: Previously undisclosed toe injury was holding Sale back

Report: Previously undisclosed toe injury was holding Sale back

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. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Dana LeVangie: 'We’re not going to panic' after starting pitchers' slow start

Dana LeVangie: 'We’re not going to panic' after starting pitchers' slow start

The Boston Red Sox haven't had a good start to the season. Through the first 11 games, the team went 3-8. Granted, they were on an 11-game west coast road trip to start the season, but the way in which the Red Sox were defeated was surprising.

So far, the Red Sox' starting pitchers have faltered. Before the team's combined shutout on Sunday, they had allowed at least one home run in every outing. By the end of the road trip, their starters had combined for a league-worst 8.57 ERA, and no starting pitcher has logged a win yet this season.

Despite these issues with the starters, the Red Sox coaches have stayed calm. Alex Cora and his staff have preached patience and most recently, Dana LeVangie defended his staff and pointed to future payoffs of resting the starters more than normal in spring training.

“It’s easy to say now, of course, that it didn’t work out. But we weren’t trying to win spring training,” said pitching coach Dana LeVangie, per Alex Speier of The Boston Globe. “As a group, we’re not going to panic, because ultimately we have a goal in mind.

“The goal is to play through the end of the season, and then to make it as deep into the playoffs as we can go.

“Yeah, it’s important to win now, but we’re not panicking about it. The ability to have all five starters in August, September, and hopefully October, that’s the ultimate goal.”

That goal is sensible, as limiting the innings of their starters could leave them fresher down the stretch. This is especially important for a guy like Chris Sale, who had two separate stints on the injured list in the second half of last season.

That said, the plan has come under fire because the early-season returns aren't very good, and the Red Sox find themselves at the bottom of the AL East as a result. If the pitching staff can't turn things around and help the Red Sox to earn some wins, many will continue to view the experiment as a failure.

The Red Sox will get a chance to record their first winning streak of the season when they play the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in their home opener at Fenway Park. Sale will get the start and look to earn his first victory of the season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Dana LeVangie: Red Sox 'got away from (their) plan'

Dana LeVangie: Red Sox 'got away from (their) plan'

The Boston Red Sox starting rotation has struggled to begin the season, and that continued on Saturday night. In his season debut, Eduardo Rodriguez lasted just 4 1/3 innings while giving up five earned runs (six total). He also threw 105 pitches despite the relatively short outing.

After the game, the Red Sox coaching staff was frustrated with the performance and pitching coach Dana LeVangie seemed to think that Rodriguez and Blake Swihart didn't follow the game plan they had set up, per WEEI's Rob Bradford.

We sort of got away from our plan a little bit. I thought our cutters were going to play a big part of this pitch mix tonight. He used the cutter a lot but he didn’t keep the righthanded hitters uncomfortable in with it. We made a few mistakes to the lefties that we can’t do. We didn’t use his changeup against the lefties, which was really surprising against his best pitch versus lefties. It’s a wipeout changeup. It’s a really good pitch against those two guys. We didn’t get to it.

Rodriguez had issues against lefties in the game and allowed Mariners outfielder Jay Bruce to club a three-run home run that ultimately ended up deciding the game. During his career, Bruce has hit just .226 off lefthanded pitchers.

As for why the Red Sox didn't stick to the game plan, LeVangie said that he didn't know. 

Perhaps Rodriguez wasn't used to playing with Blake Swihart behind the plate. Rodriguez mostly worked with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez during the 2018 campaign, as Swihart only appeared at catcher in 28 games (16 starts) and appeared just once in a game Rodriguez pitched. The duo may still be building chemistry. Still, that doesn't completely explain the decision to deviate from the game plan.

Rodriguez's outing marked the third consecutive game in which a Red Sox pitcher had allowed at least five earned runs in less than five innings of work. The Red Sox as a team had only 12 such outings in 162 regular season games last year.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.