Boston Red Sox star left-hander Chris Sale will return to the team’s rotation on Saturday, two years and one day after his last outing due to a major elbow injury.
Sale’s last major league start was Aug. 13, 2019 and he was shut down days later due to elbow inflammation. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020.
Sale’s return will come in a home game against the Baltimore Orioles. He completed his rehab assignment on Aug. 7 at Triple-A Worcester by striking out eight and giving up two hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“For how much we trust him and we rely on him, the adrenaline and everything that is gonna go on Saturday is gonna be a lot different than a rehab start,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters prior to Sunday’s road game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “So to give him an extra rest (day) going into that one, it makes sense.”
Sale made five rehab starts between Worcester, Double-A Portland and rookie ball in Florida and compiled a 1.35 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 20 innings.
The 32-year-old Sale was upbeat after the strong performance in his final rehab outing.
“I’m thrilled with what happened today,” Sale said. “I had fun. I loved it. I’m just appreciative that I can do that again.”
Cora is aware of the Aug. 13 milestone but he said the club’s intentions were to do the right thing for Sale’s arm.
“If it was up to him, I think if it was his choice, it would be the 13th,” Cora said. “That was his last start, too. So, Friday night, Friday the 13th, Chris Sale. … But it’s OK, one more day doesn’t matter.
“I do believe it’s more about preparing him this week for that and for the future. … I think it makes sense for everything that we’re trying to map out and trying to accomplish. It’s best for him that day.”
The seven-time All-Star was experiencing a down season prior to his 2019 injury as he went 6-11 with a career-worst 4.40 ERA in 25 starts.
Overall, Sale is 109-73 with a 3.03 ERA and 2,007 strikeouts in 312 appearances (232 starts) with the Chicago White Sox (2010-16) and Red Sox.
Also, Boston activated slugger J.D. Martinez and outfielder Jarren Duran from the COVID-19 list on Sunday.
Martinez, who made his fourth career All-Star Game appearance this season, is batting .284 with 21 home runs and 68 RBIs in 104 games. Duran is batting .176 with two homers and five RBIs in 17 games.
The Red Sox optioned catcher Connor Wong (3-for-12) to Worcester and placed outfielder Alex Verdugo (11 homers, 41 RBIs) on the paternity list.
In addition, Cora said bench coach Will Venable tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday and will have to remain in Canada for at least 14 days before returning to the United States. First base coach Tom Goodwin was deemed a close contact and will be in Toronto for at least five or six days.
“He has to stay here for 14 days,” Cora said of Venable. “He’s down. He feels like he let us down. He didn’t let us down. It happens. … He’s O.K. He feels good. It just happens that he tested positive. … We’re probably lucky. If we were in the States, he doesn’t have to test because he’s vaccinated. … We probably avoided something huge.”
–Field Level Media