WORCESTER — A number of those who watched Chris Sale up close this spring are confident the Boston Red Sox left-hander will bounce back after a struggle-filled stretch.
Among them is Red Sox prospect Bryan Mata, who pitched in four Grapefruit League games in Fort Meyers, Fla. Mata, who previously rehabbed with Sale after the veteran worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, acknowledged as much during Triple-A Worcester’s media day at Polar Park on Wednesday.
“Oh, 110%,” Mata told NESN.com when asked about Sale’s return to form. “He is ready.”
Mata, the organization’s No. 6 overall prospect and the top pitching prospect, recalled working with Sale during their rehab. It’s where Meta gained an appreciation for the fiery competitor Sale is, despite much of their respective stints not even including a mound.
“Learning how he goes about his business every day and everything, I see those things and I was like, this is serious,” Mata said. “I see why he has that kind of success in the big leagues because he’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Catcher Jorge Alfaro, who’s in his first season with the Red Sox and was optioned to Triple-A on Monday, also had a clear view of Sale as he started four games this spring with a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings. Alfaro believes Sale will find his former self en route to a productive season, as well.
“Yeah, he will,” Alfaro told NESN.com on Wednesday. “I know it, like you can tell.”
Sale will be on Boston’s Opening Day roster for the first time in three years. It comes after he was limited to just two starts in 2022 due to a fractured pinkie before an off-field bicycle accident less than a month later concluded his season.
“I’m happy to see him back pitching again, and I think that the way he is, he’s going to out there and compete,” Alfaro said. “And I’m just happy that he’s back. He gets to throw a baseball again and he gets to pitch again in a game. And I think that’s amazing, that’s what makes baseball a beautiful game. And just happy that he’s back.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora made the decision to start Corey Kluber on Opening Day as opposed to Sale, hoping the day off will help him enjoy the moment. Sale, instead, will start Boston’s second game of the season on Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles.
Boston will host the Orioles in Opening Day on Thursday while Triple-A Worcester will host its own Opening Day on Friday. Both games can be viewed on NESN with Opening Day coverage before first pitch.