The last pitch Chris Sale threw in the 2018 season was a slider that buckled Manny Machado and gave the Boston Red Sox the World Series title.
While Sale closed out Boston’s dominant run in 2018, there are a number of questions surrounding the health of his left shoulder heading into the offseason and the 2019 campaign. Sale threw just 32 1/3 innings between August and October, landing on the disabled list twice with shoulder inflammation and seeing his velocity dip at times upon his return.
The Red Sox picked up Sale’s option for the 2019 season and don’t appear concerned about their ace’s shoulder long term. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters Thursday the team doesn’t anticipate Sale needing surgery and they expect him to be ready for spring training.
“We anticipate him to come to spring training and be 100 percent, and at this point without any surgical procedures,” Dombrowski said, as seen on NESN.com. “We think everything that will take care of it is just rest, so that’s really where we are on him. But we don’t anticipate from a surgical procedure whatsoever.”
Sale was cruising until his shoulder issues flared up in August. The lefty was well on his way to earning the American League Cy Young Award before his season was curtailed by the injury. As it stands, Sale finished the season 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 158 innings.
Dombrowski and manager Alex Cora don’t have a specific plan for how to keep Sale healthy and fresh, but the Red Sox manager joked his ace might not see the mound a lot in spring training.
“Joking with Chris yesterday, I said ‘you might pitch your first spring training start on March 20’ and the season starts March 27,” Cora said. “We have to really take care of this guy, not only because of the month, but also the way we did it. We were very aggressive with them, so that’s an ongoing project already. We’ll take care of them. We have to do it.”
The Red Sox will need Sale to be 100 percent healthy in order to defend their crown in 2019. Fellow ace David Price opted into the remaining four years of his contract and 2016 AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello still is under contract for one season, but Sale will need to be the anchor of the rotation for the Red Sox succeed in 2019.