It was hard to know what to expect before Chris Sale took the mound Saturday for the Boston Red Sox against the Baltimore Orioles.
It had been two years since he pitched in a game thanks to Tommy John surgery and subsequent setbacks. He fared well in his minor league rehab assignment with promising strikeout numbers, but even minor league lineups managed to get some hits off him.
Not to mention all the pressure surrounding his return. A lot was riding not only on his comeback, but continued contribution as well, with Boston needing to make a push ahead of the postseason.
But one game down, and all things considered it was a pleasant surprise — even if just against the Orioles. Sale gave up back-to-back homers for only the second time in his career and allowed six hits to go with them. But he struck out eight and walked none in five full innings.
“You have no idea how hard people had to work, outside of myself, to get me here. And that is what means the most,” Sale said postgame over Zoom. “Today was what it was — I gave up two runs over five innings. Was it good? It was good enough. Am I satisfied? I’ll never be. But everything as a whole, like I said, I just I’m so, so damn appreciative of it — of the people, of the experience and just being able to talk to you guys after start.”
The performance was good enough for manager Alex Cora, who called Sale’s return and the festivities around it an important day for the organization.
“He’s in a good spot mentally, he’s in a great spot physically,” Cora said. “He’s ready to contribute, he just wants to be part of something special. This is what he asked for in the offseason, and in spring training: he just wanted to pitch meaningful innings. And he already gave us five.”
It was a good start, and we’re sure Sale only will want to improve as the season goes on.