Chris Sale had another rough outing on Tuesday, so what is wrong with the seven-time All Star left-hander?
The Boston Red Sox had their home opener on Tuesday and they celebrated their World Series win from last fall. Chris Sale got the start and got through two scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, before allowing five runs over the third and fourth innings and bowing out after 76 pitches (54 strikes).
After allowing seven runs on six hits over three innings to the Seattle Mariners in the season opener, Sale took another loss, but was somewhat better against the Oakland Athletics last Tuesday (one run and three hits allowed over six innings).
But he only had one strikeout in that start, as his fastball rarely got over 90 MPH.
Entering Tuesday’s outing, Sale’s fastball velocity was down to 91.4 MPH after averaging at least 95 MPH in each of the last two seasons.
He had also been throwing his fastball quite a bit less (30.7 percent of the time; 38.9 percent last year), which can be chalked up to it being early in the season.
That kind of diminished velocity is a big concern, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Sale had been dealing with an illness that prevented him from throwing between his first and second starts.
Sale apparently got in a normal bullpen session over the weekend in Arizona, but he was not any better on Tuesday with seven hits allowed, three strikeouts and zero walks to leave him with an even 9.00 ERA through three starts.
A particular low light Tuesday came when Lourdes Gurriel stole home, while Sale was in the windup paying no attention.
But alas, there were signs of progress.
To be fair, Sale’s fastball velocity was below par in April 2018 before it got to his typical level. So a ramping up period is not new, even with bottomed out velocity against Oakland, and not being able to throw between his first and second starts was a setback in that ramp up process.
Sale missed time last season with a shoulder issue, and the Red Sox are trying to dismiss there’s anything seriously wrong with him now. It’s too early to make any grand conclusions, unless an injury surfaces.
But the team has to be crossing its fingers there’s not a serious issue to be discovered, or anything that could become a serious issue, after signing Sale to a five-year, $145 million contract extension just prior to the season.