Chris Sale Injury: What Tommy John Surgery Means For Red Sox In 2020, Beyond

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Chris Sale’s 2020 is over before it even began.

The Boston Red Sox left-hander will undergo Tommy John surgery, the team announced Thursday. Sale began a throwing program in Fort Myers, Fla. on Wednesday after being shut down at the beginning of March.

Earlier opinions of an MRI he underwent suggested Sale wouldn’t need the surgery. But everything changed Thursday night.

So, what’s next for the Red Sox?

Well, with spring training cancelled and Opening Day indefinitely on the backburner, Boston has some extra time to weigh its options. Of course, the Red Sox already were going into 2020 slim at starting pitcher, essentially only having four starters in Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Martín Pérez. The use of an “opener” likely was going to happen every fifth day, and Ryan Weber had impressed interim manager Ron Roenicke in spring training.

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Theoretically, Boston could tote out three starters and have two openers. But that could lead to an overworked bullpen — a situation that happened in 2019. If Weber were to fill one of those roles, at least for the time being, then Boston maybe wouldn’t need to hit the panic button so fast.

There’s a lot of unknown right now, including when Sale’s surgery even will take place, as no date has been set as of Thursday night.

This, of course, is less than ideal given the already-lengthy recovery time from Tommy John surgery (which could be anywhere from 12-18 months). Let’s just say Sale has his surgery next week, 12 months put him in line to be ready close to Opening Day in 2021. But the 18 month-mark puts us in Sept. 2021, which at that point begs the question whether it’s even worth toting him out to the mound so late in the season.

But without a date of when Sale will go under the knife, it’s hard to even gauge when he will be back.

Sale is a hefty loss for Boston, who has 36 wins in three seasons with the Sox. He suffered a down year in 2019, amassing just six wins, but still pitched nearly 150 innings.

At the end of the day, the pitching is something that needs to be addressed because the bullpen only can handle so much. We don’t know if Rodriguez and Eovaldi will showcase the same dominance they did in spring training. Plus, with the season on hold, it’s hard to know just how ready they (and every other MLB player) will be once they’re able to resume full workouts.

There is a lot of the waiting game being played. But hopefully we get more answers sooner rather than later.

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