Sale's Return - When and in What Capacity?

The Allented Mr Ripley

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Chris Sale threw a bullpen session at Fenway on Tuesday.

On a searing-hot Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park, Chris Sale presented one of the most welcome sights of summer so far for the Red Sox. The lanky lefty stood on the bullpen mound and threw 25 pitches -- mixing in his fastball, changeup and slider.

At last, Sale’s potential return to the Red Sox this season is starting to come into focus.

There are still many more steps to take, as Sale will have to throw multiple live batting practice sessions, then make a typical Spring Training-like workload of rehab starts.

But he has every intention of helping what he believes will be a playoff-contending Red Sox team down the stretch.

“Oh, yeah, 100 percent. I mean, unless something crazy happens,” said Sale, as he knocked on a wooden table in front of him. “Yeah, I’ll be there soon enough.”

How soon is still anyone’s guess. The Red Sox aren’t putting timetables on it. Given the calendar and what Sale still has to do in terms of progression, it seems doubtful he’ll be back with Boston before August.
There’s been some speculation that Sale could pitch in the bullpen when he comes back, because that could speed up his return to the roster. David Price did that for the Red Sox while coming back from an elbow injury in 2017.

“I haven’t really thought about that, honestly,” said Sale. “If they told me, ‘Hey, we need a guy in the bullpen and we’ll build you up there instead of doing like a rehab assignment,’ hell, I would be game for that. The quicker I can get on this team, I would like that. But that is way above my pay grade and where I’m at right now. I’m focused on my next day and getting off the mound. And whatever the next step is, take that, but I haven’t really talked about that a whole lot.”
To Cora, the best sign on Tuesday was that Sale seemed to be 100 percent focused on pitching and not at all thinking about the state of his left arm.

“The fact that he was only talking about mechanics is refreshing. He's in a great place mentally. Physically, he looks a lot stronger than two years ago,” said Cora. “He's just excited that he's a baseball player again. It felt good to see him. It feels good to have him around. We get excited, but at the same time, we still have to be disciplined, we have to be patient. And whenever he's ready, we know he's going to contribute.”

For all the monotonous rehab Sale had to do following his Tommy John surgery on March 30, he at last feels he is in the home stretch.

“When I’m throwing, I feel normal,” said Sale. “I feel like I did when I was a kid. I don’t have this thought in the back of my mind about the surgery I had on a given throw or anything like that. I was actually saying, the last two or three weeks, I feel like I’m starting to build up as a pitcher as opposed to on a back end of a rehab. I don’t feel like I’m rehab throwing. I feel like I’m pitching throwing. That’s a good spot to be in. I’m appreciative of that.”
Let the Sale Watch commence!
 

Sin Duda

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Overly optimistic perhaps, but I'm picking July 15, first game after the All-Star break, against the New York Yankees. He starts in the bullpen, with a 2 inning limit, but ramps up and makes his first start by Aug 1.
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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I'm not sure I buy into the idea of following the Price model which is getting him back on the roster ASAP through the bullpen. That made sense in '17 when it was the end of the year and Price was never going to be able to stretch out to starter innings. I would think they'd rather take the longer view of getting him back into the rotation as a starter by around August 1. If he goes to the pen doesn't that make it more difficult/impossible to get him back in the rotation this year?
 

lexrageorge

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Sale's contract is going to go on for a loooong time, so no point in rushing him back before he is ready. I think the bullpen vs. starter decision should come down to how the team feels he can handle a starter's workload. If there are doubts, put him in the pen. Otherwise, the goal of the rehab work should be to get him back in the rotation.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I'm not sure I buy into the idea of following the Price model which is getting him back on the roster ASAP through the bullpen. That made sense in '17 when it was the end of the year and Price was never going to be able to stretch out to starter innings. I would think they'd rather take the longer view of getting him back into the rotation as a starter by around August 1. If he goes to the pen doesn't that make it more difficult/impossible to get him back in the rotation this year?
Yeah, if he's back by August 1 or there abouts, he will be stretched out for starter innings. He's throwing 20-25 pitch bullpen sessions off a mound right now. It's not hard to see him beginning his rehab assignment by early July and using his full 30 days to stretch out pitching for Worcester and Portland. When he is activated to the big club, I expect he'll be at a 75-80 pitch count, which should be good for 4-5 innings if he's efficient. And he can only build from there.

Price went to the bullpen at the end of 2017 because the minor league season was over. He returned on September 17 after being out for nearly two months. Absolutely no time (or place) to stretch him out again. If that's the case for Sale, something will have gone significantly wrong in his rehab.
 

Rovin Romine

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Yeah, if he's back by August 1 or there abouts, he will be stretched out for starter innings. He's throwing 20-25 pitch bullpen sessions off a mound right now. It's not hard to see him beginning his rehab assignment by early July and using his full 30 days to stretch out pitching for Worcester and Portland. When he is activated to the big club, I expect he'll be at a 75-80 pitch count, which should be good for 4-5 innings if he's efficient. And he can only build from there.

Price went to the bullpen at the end of 2017 because the minor league season was over. He returned on September 17 after being out for nearly two months. Absolutely no time (or place) to stretch him out again. If that's the case for Sale, something will have gone significantly wrong in his rehab.
Plus Price simply wasn't used in a way to keep building his pitch count over 5 day blocks, regardless of the consequences to the club. They just transitioned him to bullpen use.

If they can't get 4-5 innings out of Sale (say they call him up when he can only give 3), they're committing to using him to open or relieve on a specific day. Then he sits, unavailable as a reliever, till 5 days later, when he can go 4 innings. . . Maybe there's a way to jigger that so the starter Sale's going to displace immediately goes into the bullpen, but it seems far simpler on everyone to call him up when he's ready to go.
 

joe dokes

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From the linked story:
When Cora asked trainer Brad Pearson and pitching coach Dave Bush where Sale’s bullpen session on Tuesday ranked in terms of the progression of a typical ramp-up to a season, they said to look at it as January.
Whether he meant early January or late January is the difference between August and September.
 

santadevil

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Sale's contract is going to go on for a loooong time, so no point in rushing him back before he is ready. I think the bullpen vs. starter decision should come down to how the team feels he can handle a starter's workload. If there are doubts, put him in the pen. Otherwise, the goal of the rehab work should be to get him back in the rotation.
3 more years after this one...they're not pinned down forever on this
 

LeoCarrillo

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3 more years after this one...they're not pinned down forever on this
Probably four.

(from AP) Boston has a $20 million team option for 2025, and if that is exercised, $5 million would be deferred until June 30, 2040. The 2025 salary would become guaranteed if he finishes among the top 10 in Cy Young voting in 2024 and is healthy at the end of the 2024 season.
 

Sausage in Section 17

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From the linked story:


Whether he meant early January or late January is the difference between August and September.
OK, but players are almost never starting their seasons in early January. Some arrive early for Spring Training toward the end, especially if they're rehabbing or fighting for a job.

To me, that means he threw his first pitches of the new year, which means he shouldn't be ready for game action in the season for another 8-10 weeks. Which would be mid-August, and that's assuming he has no setbacks or snags.

It's probably not fair to Sale to expect meaningful starter innings this year. Too much could go wrong, and then Plan B is almost certain to be the pen. That's not to say it couldn't happen if everything breaks right, I guess I just doubt that everything will, and so expectations should be adjusted accordingly.
 

jmcc5400

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I'd handle him as they have Whitlock. Kid gloves, multiple innings when he does pitch. The team could certainly use a stud LH reliever. Taylor has been great lately and Darwinzon pretty good, but they aren't exactly a glass of warm milk before bedtime out there.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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If he returns and he isn't already stretched out to where he can throw five innings if he's pitch-efficient, I will be very surprised. He gets 30 days of rehab in the minors before he's activated. Those 30 days should be used like spring training so when he gets to his Opening Day, he should be good be able to throw 60-70 pitches an outing. Five rehab starts increasing count by 10 each time, starting at 15-20 pitches should get him there.

No need to give him the Whitlock treatment. There's a big difference between an unproven rule 5 guy who's never pitched above AA and 10-year vet who has been perennial top 5 Cy Young guy his whole career. He starts every 5th or 6th day, perhaps with a shadow (perhaps the guy he replaces in the rotation, perhaps someone like Whitlock or Andriese). Relieving should be a last resort usage.
 

jmcc5400

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Sure, but another big difference is that they could have another $105,000,000 invested in Sale over the next four years, so treat him very gently in 2021. If he can be used as you suggest, all the better.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Sure, but another big difference is that they could have another $105,000,000 invested in Sale over the next four years, so treat him very gently in 2021. If he can be used as you suggest, all the better.
Oh for sure. They certainly don't want to put his future at risk. I just think that they should be aiming for a more aggressive plan with him then throttle back should the need arise. The ideal outcome should be 8-10 starts and somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-60 innings by the end of the season, and he's got enough in the tank to be their #2 or #3 starter in a playoff series.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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The way the entire staff has been pitching (recent Perez start an exception) this would/could be an absolutely excellent moment to go for the 6 man rotation.
The issue always was taking away starts from your best pitchers and giving more starts to your "no. 6" starter... which normally would be significantly worse than your best pitchers. But in this scenario, since the starters across the boards have all been pretty damned good (also expecting ERod to start getting better again... his last start showed some promise), it makes perfect sense.

Do it.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Probably four.

(from AP) Boston has a $20 million team option for 2025, and if that is exercised, $5 million would be deferred until June 30, 2040. The 2025 salary would become guaranteed if he finishes among the top 10 in Cy Young voting in 2024 and is healthy at the end of the 2024 season.
We should all really hope it ends up being 4. If it ends up being 3, it's probably not pretty.