How much do the fortunes of the 2021 Red Sox depend on J.D. Martinez’s swing and Chris Sale’s fling?
The best- and worst-case scenarios for Boston’s 2021 season ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle set Tuesday both center around the Red Sox designated hitter’s and the ace’s respective comeback attempts. Martinez hopes to re-take his place among the ranks of elite sluggers after a rough 2020 campaign, while Sale intends to return from Tommy John surgery, hopefully pitching like his old self, at some point this season.
In his best-case Red Sox scenario, Doolittle explains how the Red Sox might contend for a playoff spot if Martinez and Sale bounce back.
“J.D. Martinez finds his way back to his 2019 form and powers a resurgent offense to help the Red Sox hang in at just over .500 until the time Chris Sale returns,” Doolittle wrote. “With Sale leading the pitching staff, Boston mounts a charge at 90 wins and challenges for a wild card.”
However, Doolittle in his worst-case scenario explains why Boston might struggle without in-form Martinez and/or Sale.
“The Red Sox’s 2021 season looks pretty much like the 2020 season, only for a full six months,” Doolittle wrote. “Martinez seems done. Sale’s injury rehab lingers, and Boston’s overall run prevention turns into a nightmare and leads to a fourth-place finish.”
The Red Sox will open their 2021 campaign Thursday at Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles. Sale will begin the season on the 60-day Injured List, but Martinez is expected to start at the heart of Boston’s batting order.
At that point the differences between the best- and worst-case scenarios and reality itself will start to reveal themselves.