Even though Sale, to the surprise of no one, said he’d “be game” to come out of bullpen as long as it meant getting back on the mound, the Red Sox will be cautious if they pursue that route.
You see, Boston faced a similar situation in 2019 with Nathan Eovaldi. The pitcher returned from injury and went to the bullpen before going back into the rotation. Cora admitted Wednesday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” that the Red Sox Eovaldi in “a bad spot,” and didn’t want to do the same thing with Sale.
“I learned in ’19 you gotta be careful with those situations. Although Nate’s injury — he wasn’t coming back from Tommy John surgery. But, I do believe we put Nate in a bad spot,” Cora said. “I don’t want to say rushing him but saying, ‘OK, we need help in the bullpen let’s put him in the bullpen.’ You saw what happened. He struggled in the bullpen then we put him in the rotation, he struggled in the rotation. So, you gotta make sure you take care of the individual. Whenever he’s ready to pitch we’ll make decisions based on that.”
The Red Sox will have some decisions to make once Sale is ready to return, but Cora knows someone like the hard-throwing lefty is someone who should pitch every five days.
“Obviously, he will pitch this season if everything goes the way it’s going right now. As far as bullpen or rotation — Chris Sale’s a guy you pitch every five days, and he’s been one of the best leftie’s in the big leagues,” Cora said. “That’s the way I see it. Obviously we’ll have conversations throughout this process and see where we’re at. Hopefully he’s healthy enough that he’s going to contribute. … We’ve been very patient with this. The fact that he threw (Tuesday) was a great sign. Now there’s a countdown, but we’re not gonna throw a number … we’re just happy he’s in a good spot right now, and we do believe he’s gonna contribute.”
After all is said and done, Cora won’t rule out Sale going to the bullpen, but he knows the health of his pitcher comes first — especially because of how important Sale is to the team.
“I’m not ruling it out, but I do believe Chris every five days, he’s a force. And we gotta make sure we take care of the player. … We gotta be careful because this is not only for this year, this is also for the future. This guys’ too important for us just for us to be selfish for us to say ‘go to the bullpen, go to the rotation.’ We have to make sure we make the right decision. And he will be part of the decision and conversations.”
Now we wait to hear an expected return date as we’re sure Red Sox fans are getting antsy for the return of Sale.