MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — The similarities between Chris Sale and Jay Groome are obvious.
Both are left-handed pitchers in the Boston Red Sox organization, both stand 6-foot-6, and both possess ungodly fastballs that routinely pop near triple-digit numbers on the radar gun.
But that’s also where the similarities end.
Sale, who’s entering his second season with the Red Sox, revealed Saturday at the team’s Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods Resort Casino that he’s taken the 19-year-old Groome under his rather large wing this offseason.
Sale learned from Red Sox mental skills coach Laz Gutierrez that Groome would be in the Fort Myers, Fla., area during the offseason. Sale lives nearby and decided to reach out to Groome about getting together for offseason workouts.
The schedule is pretty full. The two work out four or five days per week. They are joined by Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello for workouts on Monday and Tuesday nights, as well as Wednesday pilates, and then work out together on Thursday and Friday.
“I figured, hey, (he’s a) young guy in our organization with all the talent in the world,” Sale said Saturday. “The kid’s been throwing 98 since he’s 14. He’s got all the tools. I’m not reconstructing this guy. I’m just working out with him and picking his brain a little bit. Just trying to maximize his potential.”
The Red Sox selected Groome out of high school with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Where Sale was able to lean on college coaches and teammates, Groome is getting a crash course in pro ball at a much younger age than Sale, who was drafted after three years at Florida Gulf Coast University.
“I know I had teammates in college and coaches in college pushing me in the right direction,” Sale said. “Sometimes you learn more from your teammates and peers than you do from your coaches. I’ve done this for a while so I like to think I know a little bit about something and can share it with him.”
Having someone like Sale can only be seen as a positive for Groome. There’s no debating his talent. He’s a big left-hander with plus velocity and a big league curveball. Despite struggling at times during the 2017 season, he still was the highest-ranked Red Sox farmhand on Baseball America’s newly released Top 100 prospects list. But makeup and character concerns about Groome go all the way back to before the draft, and he’s had to work at proving his skeptics wrong.
Watching someone like Sale — one of the best left-handed pitchers in the world — should pay dividends in the long run, as long as Groome is willing and able to listen to the American League Cy Young award runner-up. Sale seems sold so far.
“He’s done a really good job,” Sale said. “It’s fun to see. He’s young and this is kind of his first go at it. Just trying to get him prepared and show him ‘Hey, this is what it takes to get through a big league season.’ He’s got everything, all the tools you could possibly ask for — the guy’s an animal — so I’m just trying to give him some ins and outs and get him here sooner rather than later.”
And if Groome does put it all together, Sale will be waiting in Boston.
“The sooner he can realize what he can be, the better off we’re going to be in the long run. I look forward to the day me and him are pitching in the same rotation.”
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images