Chris Sale says he didn’t feel any different as the 2017 season wound down, but the numbers told a different story.
The Boston Red Sox pitcher had a dominant first season with his new club, but he wasn’t the same pitcher in September and October that he was in July.
Sale allowed at least four earned runs in five of his final 11 starts after doing so just three times in his first 21 starts. That continued into the playoffs when the Houston Astros tagged him for seven runs on nine hits — three home runs — in Game 1. He also was at the heart of the club’s eighth-inning meltdown in the deciding Game 4.
There were obvious questions about Sale’s workload after the Cy Young Award runner-up logged a league-high 214 1/3 innings while tying a career high with 32 starts. And as the 2018 season nears, the Red Sox already are working on ways to curtail Sale’s workload with hopes he’ll be able to pitch at his absolute best into the fall.
Sale admitted Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods that he’s easing into his throwing this winter, an approach that will continue into spring training and even the regular season. The pitcher acknowledged he came into the 2017 season looking to make a good first impression, but he’ll be a little more cautious as he begins his second season in Boston.
“Just preparation, the amount of throws made in the offseason, the amount of throws made in spring training and then just playing it by ear when the season rolls around,” Sale said. “I don?t want to spill all the beans, but we?ve got a pretty good routine, so I?m looking forward to it.”
Sale intentionally was vague about the specifics of the plan, but he apparently won’t be on an innings or pitch count. Sale literally laughed and scoffed at that idea.
However, he is on board with the general notion after hammering out the details with new manager Alex Cora, pitching coach Dana LeVangie and the club’s training staff.
“If it’s something that?s going to help our team,” Sale said, “I’m in. There’s really no questions asked after that. I guess even more so from a personal standpoint it?s going to make me feel better and have me be better toward the end, I’m game. You can have the best season you want, you get to the playoffs and no one cares. You have to be strong in the playoffs. We?ve talked about some things and brought some things up about the point.”
It figures to be a big part of LeVangie’s first year on the job, too.
“Myself, Alex and Chris and the organization, I think we’re all on the same page,” LeVangie said. “I think we understand this season is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Yeah, we want to get off to a good start, and we’re not going to panic because ultimately we’re getting to August, September, October at full strength rather than on the decline.”