Chris Sale will be getting the ball in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
“He’s one of those guys where it really doesn?t take much for him to get back on track,” Eovaldi told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey on Wednesday before the team traveled to Tampa to start the series with the Rays. “I don?t think he was that far off. There were a couple things mechanically that I thought were a little different now than where he has been in the past.
“You haven’t seen him pitch in close to two years and all the injuries he’s had, just seeing him, when everything comes out right, it’s something different about it and I hadn’t seen that. Even though he’d been throwing well, I hadn?t been seeing — his stuff just plays on another level when everything mechanically is right.”
He noticed upon Sale’s return that the slider looked a little off, but then that improved at the cost of his changeup. Eovaldi credited that to Sale’s fast tempo making pitches harder to control, but thinks his teammate will get that and consistent velocity back.
Eovaldi would know. He and Sale have been teammates since his trade to Boston during the 2018 season, and Eovaldi has had Tommy John surgery twice before. He knows that inconsistencies after going so long without pitching are frustrating, but pretty standard.
“That’s one of the big things, coming back from Tommy John, is everybody expects you to come back perfect right away and I know firsthand it’s not always like that,” Eovaldi said. “I’m a big mechanics guy and he’s a grip-it-and-rip-it type guy, so me being able to talk to him a little bit, little things about his mechanics, and he said he felt the same thing I was saying, so hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora is wagering on Sale returning to his usual self after some of that work in the bullpen. Eovaldi gets the ball in Game 2.
Both starters were huge parts of the Red Sox’s 2018 run. It looks like they are poising each other for another one.