Chris Sale on MLB's proposal to play in Arizona: 'Going to be tough'

Chris Sale on MLB's proposal to play in Arizona: 'Going to be tough'

If MLB really wants to open the season next month in Arizona, Chris Sale expects that players will do their part to make it happen. One line that will be hard to cross, however, is spending four or five months without their families.

Speaking on a conference call on Tuesday to address his recent Tommy John surgery, Sale weighed in on the possibility of players leaving everything and everyone behind to sequester in the desert

"That's going to be a case by case issue," he said. "To answer your question, I think it's going to be tough. I don't know if I could look at my kids just through a screen for four or five months. The same things goes for my wife, not being able to be around her, that's a long time. But people have done it in harsh scenarios, I guess."

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Under one proposal, players would relocate to Arizona next month and the season would be played in spring training ballparks, as well as other sites around Phoenix. In order to minimize risk of infection, however, players would live in isolation, traveling only between hotels and ballparks.

"I think there's a lot of figuring out to do," Sale said. "I think there's a right way to do this, and I'm confident that Major League Baseball, the Players' Association, all the owners, all the teams and players, I think that we're going to be able to find a way to come together and iron this stuff out, and figure out a way that's safe and is going to please the masses. Whatever that is, I don't know."

Games would be played without fans, an experience Sale remembers from 2015, when Baltimore riots following the death of Freddie Gray forced the White Sox and Orioles to play in an empty Camden Yards.

"That was actually a really weird experience," Sale said. "It was definitely different. The game was much faster, I can tell you that, but it was a weird feeling having nobody in the stands. But hey — sometimes you've got to adapt. Sometimes you've got to do some things for the greater good of what's going on around you. That's the situation we were in. Is it ideal? I would say no. But at the same time, you have to be sensitive to your surroundings and what's going on. At the time, that's what it took with the safety of not only the players and the staff, coaches, umpires, everybody at the stadium, but people coming into the stadium as well. It just made the most sense moving forward playing the game.

"If that's what it takes, we've got to do it. Sports by no means is on as important a level as what's going on right now. We're in a pandemic. This is worldwide. It's taken 12 or 13 thousand people's lives. That's almost half the capacity in Fenway Park. That's wild. I think people have an outlet with sports. That's a way for them to escape reality sometimes. They just kind of decompress. I would love to be able to get back to that."

Sale hopes baseball can help provide the housebound with an escape.

"I think the sooner we can get back on the field and bring a little bit of levity to what's going on for people around the world, obviously in a safe way — we've got to dot all the I's and cross all the t's, we don't want to step on any boundaries, cross any lines — there's a right way to do this," he said. "We've definitely got to figure that out. But I think the sooner we get back out there across all major sports, the better off we're going to be."

Darwinzon Hernandez: 'I’m ready' to be a starter

Darwinzon Hernandez: 'I’m ready' to be a starter

The Boston Red Sox have serious concerns with their pitching staff. With Chris Sale out for the long haul after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox are down to just a few known commodities among their starting rotation.

Eduardo Rodriguez will be the team's ace. Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez will follow him in the rotation. But the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation are a bit harder to predict.

Before Sale's surgery and before the MLB shut down operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed like Ryan Weber was the leading candidate to earn a job in the back end of the rotation. If he's the fourth starter, that will leave the Sox with just one hole to fill in the fifth starter slot.

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And one possibility for that role would be Darwinzon Hernandez. The left-hander pitched in 29 games for the Red Sox last season logging a 4.45 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings pitched. Hernandez only made one start for the Sox, but he considers himself to be a starter at the MLB level. 

"Everyone knows I’d love to start. Absolutely," Hernandez said, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. "That is what every pitcher wants and I still feel like I can do it. I enjoyed being a reliever and I’ll do whatever the team asks. The important thing is to be on the team. But, yes, I want to start."

Hernandez was a starter during his time in the minor leagues and has started at least 12 games per season since 2015. The 23-year-old still has a lot of upside and he believes that he's ready to take on a starting job.

"I’m ready. I’ve matured as [a] pitcher,” Hernandez said through a translator. "In the minors, I would just throw but when I got to the majors, they taught me how to pitch and the importance of working hard and locating your pitches, mixing your pitches. I learned how to pitch and not just throw."

Of course, the decision will ultimately come down to Ron Roenicke. And the Sox skipper at least seemed open to Hernandez battling for a starting job before spring training was shut down.

"You have to consider [starting Hernandez]," Roenicke said last month, per Abraham. "He’s still a young pitcher and there’s a lot to work with. I could see us looking at this again and giving him a chance to start."

Hernandez will have some competition for that final spot. The Red Sox did sign Collin McHugh after Sale's setback. The former Houston Astros pitcher could be a starter or bullpen arm, but he'll have to get healthy first. He was battling an elbow injury upon joining the team and it's unclear exactly when he'll return to action.

The team could also choose to use the opener strategy that the Tampa Bay Rays have popularized in recent seasons. Could that involve Hernandez playing that role? Or being the "bulk" guy to take on innings once the opener is done? It's surely possible.

It's tough to know what the Red Sox are going to do with their rotation. They'll likely have to mix and match things if and when the season does begin. But that could be a while away.

For the time being, Roenicke will have more time to think about just how he wants his pitching staff to shake out. And with rosters to be expanded in wake of the pandemic, per Joel Sherman of The New York Post, Roenicke may opt to try a few different solutions before settling on his preferred option.

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

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In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seem to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.