Oct 19, 2021: Chris Sale is no stranger to pitching in crucial postseason games for the Red Sox.
In 2018, the lefty led his team into October with a Game 1 win over the Yankees in the American League Division Series. In Game 4 of the same series, Sale came out of the bullpen for a scoreless eighth. And his most memorable postseason moment came two rounds later, closing out Game 5 of the World Series with three strikeouts.
Three years later, Sale once again finds himself getting the ball in a pivotal postseason game for the Red Sox. Following Boston’s 9-2 loss to Houston in Game 4 at Fenway Park, manager Alex Cora announced Sale would start Game 5 with the series tied at two apiece.
“We all know what we got ahead of us and the series tied 2-2,” Sale said. “Big game, obviously, tomorrow and going back to Houston [is] guaranteed now. So taking this last one at home right before we get on that plane and head down to Houston will be big.”
In two postseason outings this year, Sale has pitched just 3 2/3 innings and compiled an uncharacteristic 14.73 ERA. Comparatively, the lefty owned a 4.11 ERA in five outings (three starts) during the entirety of the 2018 postseason. Despite the inflated numbers, Sale’s teammates have nothing but confidence in sending the lefty to the mound in a swing game.
“We can't ask for anybody else we would rather have on the mound than Chris tomorrow,” Nathan Eovaldi said, “and he has been working hard in between each start. He is feeling good. His mechanics are feeling better. I think we're going to have a great game tomorrow, and he is going to come out. He lives up to the pressure. I mean, he enjoys it. He likes it. He likes going out there and being that guy for us, and he is going to be ready to go.”
Since making his season debut on Aug. 14, Sale’s most noticeable struggle in his return from Tommy John surgery has come with his changeup. In Game 2 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay, Sale threw the pitch just once and instead relied on his fastball and slider, both of which the Rays successfully jumped on. Though Sale’s next start showed signs of improvement (one run in 2 2/3 innings), the lefty again shied away from his curve, throwing it just four times with no swings and misses.
Sale has been working on mechanical adjustments in between his starts, spending a good chunk of his time getting work in the bullpen. When asked if he’d ever spent this much time in the ‘pen, Sale replied, “No chance.”
“I've never been away from the game like I was before,” Sale said. “This is crunch time. This isn't, ‘Let's work back from Tommy John and try to find some stuff.’ We need it now. Look where we're at. I got to put [in] as much work as I can, and I got to do my job.”
As far as what the lefty has been working on?
“Just my delivery. You know, getting comfortable with it, being able to repeat it a lot,” Sale said. “I think that's where a lot of my inconsistencies have come, not being able to repeat that. A lot of dry throws, a lot of heavy bullpen sessions, stuff like that. Just the more repetition I can get, the better off I'm going to be.”
Another new variable for Sale in this outing? Game 5 will be his first postseason outing at Fenway Park this year -- and his first since a four-inning start in Game 1 of the 2018 World Series. Though Fenway has long had a reputation for its October atmosphere, this year in particular has rivaled postseasons past in terms of crowd noise and energy.
“This crowd is everything to us,” Sale said. “Our fans are -- they mean a lot to us, and they know we love them, and we know they love us. This entire postseason they've been bringing it. I know they're going to do everything for us tomorrow.” (M Burkhardt - MLB.com - Oct 20, 2021)
|Home:||Fort Myers, FL||Team:||RED SOX|
|Birth City:||Lakeland, FL|
|Draft:||White Sox #1 - 2010 - Out of Florida Gulf Coast Univ.|
|2020||-||IL - Tommy John|
Sale was just 5-foot-8 and weighed a tad over 100 pounds his freshman year of high school in Lakeland, Florida
"Growing up he was never the kind of kid that you could build the team around,” his father, Allen, said. That has changed.
Back at Lakeland High, Sale’s coaches saw potential in the skinny little lefthander but never imagined he’d be a major leaguer. During a game vs. neighboring Fort Meade High School, future Pirate Andrew McCutchen hit a 440-foot blast off of Chris.
“His delivery was nice and loose with that lanky body, but he didn’t really throw all that hard, and he struggled with his control at the beginning,” said Ron Nipper, his junior varsity coach at Lakeland High. “I wish I could say that I knew it all along, but I really didn’t. He was just a good athlete with a decent arm who would likely be a varsity pitcher one day."
He did grow four inches over the summer before his junior year. But for the most part he was just another big kid with a good arm—something that is almost as common in the state of Florida as saw palmetto bushes.
Chris's father, Allen Sale, provided his son the utmost in support.
"Up until I got up to college, he might have missed a handful of games. He was there every step of the way," said Sale, who his now a married father of one. "Even Little League, he would stay for four innings and show up late to a meeting for work so he didn't miss the whole thing.
"He built a mound in the backyard. Once the weekends came, we were always at the park playing, working on picks at first, fly balls in the outfield, hitting. He's probably a little upset that I didn't become a hitter just because I can't even imagine starting to count all the baseballs he must have thrown to me throughout the years."
For those who are envious of Sale's slender 6-foot-6, 186-pound build, know that it doesn't come from a lack of eating on his part. It's hereditary. His grandfather was a long, skinny swimmer. At 84 years old, he was still 6-foot-3 and "not very much," said Sale with a laugh.
Sale's grandfather was given the nickname "Streamline" by none other than Joker Marchant, whose name sits on the Detroit Tigers' spring training facility. Allen points out that when his Dad went into the paratroopers, he was 6-foot-4 and weighed 145 pounds and was told by his commander that he was the only person who ever jumped out of an airplane and went up.
As a competitive swimmer, Allen checked in at 6-foot-3 and 158 pounds, referring to himself humorously as "the tubby one." In high school, Christopher (as his father calls him), weighed 153 pounds. On the day he signed with the White Sox, he was measured at 6-foot-6 and 163 pounds. So, that 180 pounds Sale now carries on his frame makes him the family behemoth.
As Sale got longer during his teen years, he did not fill out. He also never lost his alarming flexibility.
"Even after he got tall in high school, he could lie on his stomach, lift his feet over his back and scratch his eyebrows with his toes," his father, Allen, said. "I've seen little girls in gymnastics do things like that, but when you see a kid tall enough to dunk a basketball put his feet over his head, it's hard to watch."
Chris became a father when he was still a young man at Florida Gulf Coast University, re-arranging life priorities, naturally.
Sale seems to be able to cut out the noise, whatever the task may be, which is an ideal trait to have in Boston. He takes the mound in an empty-minded state, as if pitching allows him to practice principles to quiet his mind.
"It just clears my head," Sale said late in the 2017 season.
Growing up in Lakeland, Fla., Chris did not have the talent to match his emotions. He could always locate the ball, but entering high school he was 5-foot-8 and rail thin. He couldn't throw hard and didn't make varsity as a freshman or sophomore.
Then one day the next summer, Chris got sick with what his parents figured was mono. When he finally popped out of bed four days later, he was suddenly taller than his dad, Allen, a former college swimmer who stands 6-3. Seeing him for the first time, his mother asked, "What are you standing on?"
Sale couldn't hit 90 on the gun, but his command allowed him to mow down hitters.
"He could beat up a water cooler with his bat," his father says of Chris's lack of control of his emotions.
Then there was the truck. Allen and Chris got ahold of a gray Dodge pickup and souped it up with giant mud tires, a body lift and custom speakers. The police used to call Mike Campbell, the varsity coach, begging him to get Sale to turn it down. Chris broke a few sound ordinances.
Following his freshman year at Florida Gulf Coast University, Sale pitched for the La Crosse Loggers in the collegiate summer Northwoods League. "I was getting crushed," Chris remembers.
He wasn't in shape to throw. And every time he got shelled, he'd beat himself up, driving himself into a downward spiral. The team's manager, Andy McKay, remembers having a long conversation with Sale in the bullpen, who'd been so frustrated that he almost drove home to Florida the night before. Chris decided to stay, and from that moment, McKay says, he took preparation and conditioning more seriously.
"It ended up being a kind of life-changing summer for him," said McKay, a trained sports psychologist. (Andy is now the head of player development for the Mariners.)
At McKay's urging, Sale increased his focus on the mental side of the game.
"That was something I had never even put my foot in the water in," Sale says. "Baseball is a physical game, it's a sport; you just go out there and play. And (McKay) brought a different aspect of the game to me. When you have a positive mind frame, and when you think more clearly and more positively, it's going to be better." (Jason Schwartz - ESPN the Magazine - 5/29/2017)
In 2007, Sale was chosen by the Rockies in the 21st round of the draft. But he went to college instead.
- In the summer of 2009, Sale was named the Cape Cod League Pitcher of the Year after he led the loop with four victories and 57 strikeouts in 55 innings with a 1.47 ERA while pitching for Yarmouth-Dennis.
In 2010, Chris was 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA, striking out 146 and walking only 14 in 103 innings for Florida Gulf Coast University. He majored in criminal justice. That year, Sale was awarded the National NCAA Pitcher of the Year.
In May 2010, Sale's future wife gave birth to their first son.
- In 2010, Sale got drafted by the White Sox (see Transactions below).
In 2011, Baseball America rated Sale as the #1 prospect in the White Sox organization.
Chris has an insatiable appetite. But he stays very thin and bony because of super-fast metabolism.
"The guy crushes food,” White Sox teammate Adam Dunn said. “He eats more than anybody in the world, and he gets so excited when he gains two pounds. All I have to do is think about eating and I gain four pounds. Me and C.C. Sabathia are fat dudes who are trying to be skinny. Sale is a skinny dude who’s trying to get fat.”
White Sox clubhouse manager Vince Frasso said, "He needs his burgers. If I have them in here before games, he loves those, or I'll send somebody out to get him a Whopper. He'll get the special sauce, load it up with all the other stuff—tomatoes, mayo, lettuce, cheese. If we're on the West Coast, he likes Whataburgers. He eats anything. I've seen him dive into everything—potato chips, candy bars—and he doesn't put on a pound. It's unbelievable. I wish he could pass that metabolism on to me."
Sale is 6’6” and only 180 lbs. despite eating junk food at all times. An article by Brian Costa in the Wall Street Journal said he might have “Baseball’s Greatest Metabolism” and reported that on one flight from Chicago to California, Sale ate two ice cream sundaes and three bags of chips. In the time Costa spent in the White Sox locker room before a game, Sale ate three chili dogs.
- In 2012, Sale finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting after posting a 17-8 record with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings. Not bad for a guy in this third season in professional baseball.
March 5, 2014: Chris is married to Brianne and has a son, Rylan. Rylan understands that Dad plays baseball, and loves the clubhouse.This native of Florida also is devoted to his alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
June 18, 2014: Scott Carroll, the entrepreneur, received a post-game boost from Chris Sale, his White Sox teammate. Of course that boost came in the form of a well-played practical joke.
Carroll joined with his friend, Ryan McClellend, in a product called Doodlehats.com. The hats feature dry-erase material on the front so the owner can change messages from day to day or hour to hour. Carroll gave out those hats, which go for around $20, to his teammates and Sale wore it after his victorious start over the Giants. The one caveat is that Sale wrote Carroll's cell phone number on the hat, with the message, "Call me."
"When I came out of the shower, I saw he was wearing the hat. And I was like, 'That's cool. He's wearing it. I'm happy someone is finally wearing it for an interview,'" a smiling Carroll said. "I get closer and I see my number on there and I was like, 'Son of a ….'
"It was really funny. I thought it was awesome. I thought it was a great prank. That's why I was joking and said you try to do something nice for a guy and that's how they repay you."
Hundreds of calls came in to Carroll's phone. He joked that many people hung up or left a voicemail along the lines of "Chris Sale told me to call this number. Call me back." Carroll has not returned any of the 50-or-so voicemails.
"If anything, it's going to help out doodle hats, which is cool," Carroll said. "I'm still debating if whether or not I have to change my number. Basically what we live in now is a hashtag world and it's just trying to be a part of that. You can write anything on it and wipe it off and write something new in seconds. It's great for parties. It's just a fun little gift." (Scott Merkin / MLB.com / 6/10/14)
WORD OF THE DAY
What is the "Chris Sale word of the start," people may ask? It's a fair enough question. With each big league trip to the mound in 2014, Sale has worked in one particular word during his postgame interview. The word comes from Bryan Johnson, the team's baseball video coordinator, and it's up to Sale to use that word in the proper context.
Much like his devastating slider on a 2-2 count, Sale hasn't missed with that job this year. He's becoming as much about vocabulary power as he is about power pitching. "At first, we were trying to get the whole team in on it," Sale said. "That seemed to be kind of hard. I was the only one who stuck with it."
Adam Dunn and John Danks actually were in on that first word, which was "indubitably," for the record, coming after his start on April 6 in Kansas City. But from that point on, Johnson has become the "brains of the operation," and Sale stands as the "puppet."
Sale's words since then have gone as follows:
• Juxtapose (April 11) • Consternation (April 17) • Ameliorate (May 22) • Acquiesce (May 27) • Capitulated (June 1) • Nascence (June 7) • Ruminate (June 12) • Repudiate (June 18) • Antithetic (June 23) • Dichotomy (June 28) • Cacophony (July 4) • Adjudicate (July 9) • Ubiquitous (July 21) • Voracious (July 26) • Prescience (Aug. 1) • Amalgamation (Aug. 6)
Sale said, "We had said that we were going to do it every start this year. In a sense, Bryan and I are on a team now, and I can't let my team down. I have two teams to play for a night."
There's really no deep meaning behind this word-of-the-start tale, aside from illustrating how comfortable Sale has become as an elite Major League starter—not to mention how much enjoyment he seems to gain from a game that can be one part exasperating and another part exhilarating. Chris has transformed from a quiet rookie to a veteran leader at the core of the White Sox reshaping process, one who humorously jousts with the media to make sure he gets in his appointed word selection.
"He's extremely mature and very comfortable in the clubhouse and in his role in the front end of the rotation," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "He not only sets a good example for everyone on the field, but he's a huge part of what we have going on in the clubhouse, building good momentum—especially, we feel, on the pitching side."
Now this "word of the start" has become somewhat of an Internet craze. OK, if not quite to that craze level, at the very least, fans on Twitter clamor to hear what Sale has to say after each start. (Merkin - mlb.com - 8/11/14)
Chris said regarding pitching via a team-friendly, multi-year deal amid the high-end free-agent pitching contracts, "I don't need the biggest contract. I want that big shiny [World Series] trophy at the end. We have the team to do that. I don't want the payday. I want the celebration."
There are few things that Chris likes doing less than talking about himself in the context of great pitchers: present, past and future. Maybe seeing a bad movie or possibly paying taxes. Definitely missing most of the 2015 Spring Training due to an avulsion fracture in his right foot sustained during an accident at his Arizona home on Feb. 27.
Whether Sale likes to discuss his continued excellence or not, he is a difference maker. Sale is a winning-streak extender or a losing-streak stopper. He's a clubhouse leader, and Sale stands as an intimidating presence just by his name being listed as that day's probable.
Ask Sale for a description of how he fits in the overall pantheon of White Sox baseball, and his response is much more nuts and bolts basic.
"I'm just a pitcher," said Sale, who looked as if he was ready to humorously buzz a reporter with one of his 98-mph fastballs when manager Robin Ventura's comparison of Sandy Koufax was brought up.
"You guys have all these questions for me like I can read the future and have all the answers," a smiling Sale continued. "I'm a baseball player. I want to go out and play baseball and do the best I can. That's all I've ever done and all I'm ever going to do. All the extra stuff is cool and fine, but I'll stick to being a baseball player."
If Sale has no interest in placing himself among the game's elite, then allow his teammates to handle that task, or at least underscore his importance. "Yeah, he was awesome. He was lights-out," said White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham [in an April 2015 game]. "Clearly a leader and a guy we need to have on the hill every five days."
"Any time you have a guy like Chris Sale, the offense is like, 'Let's push a couple across today and it's going to be enough to hold up,'" reliever Zach Duke said. "It takes pressure off of everybody and really just allows everyone to settle in and do what he knows he can do." (Merkin - mlb.com - 4/12/15)
April 23, 2015: White Sox starting pitchers Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija each received five-game suspensions for their role in the on-field fracas taking place during the bottom of the seventh inning of the game against Kansas City at U.S. Cellular Field. (S Merkin - MLB.com - April 25, 2015)
July 2015: Sale was selected to his fourth straight All-Star Game, joining Billy Pierce (1955-59) as the only pitchers in Sox history to make four straight All-Star teams.
December 2015: Sale took some time to look at holiday memories past, present and future with MLB.com Holiday Q&A.
MLB.com: What was your favorite Christmas moment growing up? Sale: I have two of them, actually. One of them when I was younger. I was probably 6, 7 or 8 years old, somewhere around there. My uncle got me, the same uncle who took me to my first baseball game at Tropicana Field, it's my dad's youngest brother, he brought this fire truck for me. It's probably three feet long, it ran at the time on 14 D batteries. Just something ridiculous. Lights, sirens, remote control, ladder went up and down.
The next one was I was 13 or 14 years old and my bike got stolen. It got stolen relatively close to Christmastime. I don't remember exactly when. I didn't have a bike until then. My parents kept telling me, "You are going to be driving in a couple of years. Don't worry about it. You don't need a new bike, they are expensive, yadda, yadda." Kind of giving me the run-around. I come out Christmas morning, and usually all the cool gifts get laid out at night. So I'm coming out, just expecting to see this new bike sitting in there because I thought they were [teasing] me and … no bike. Nothing. I was like 'whatever. It's Christmas. I still have other gifts. I'm not going to be a little stinker, whatever you want to call it.'
So we get done and we are cleaning up and my parents are like, "Christopher, you need to take the trash out." I walk out to take the trash out, and my bike is sitting in the garage, in between my parents' cars. And I lost it. I started screaming.
MLB.com: Describe any traditions or a typical holiday celebration for your family. Sale: On Christmas Eve, we always go to a candlelight service at my wife's grandparents' church. We come home and Rylan gets to open one present. That's what I did, my sister and I, we got to open one present on Christmas Eve, kind of as the tester. My parents picked out the gift, so you don't get the cool one right out of the gate. Then usually we just sit around as a family. We all just kind of hang out, sit around, play card games or hit golf balls in the backyard. We find a way to stay busy and have a good time.
MLB.com: What's your favorite holiday-themed movie? Sale: You got to go with the classic, like "Home Alone." That's hilarious. I really like "Elf," with Will Ferrell. I actually watched that [recently]. And [White Sox Minor League conditioning coordinator] Dale Torborg, Demon, has given me a list of movies, because I haven't seen "A Christmas Story." He said my homework for the offseason was to watch that movie around Christmastime, and he said he was going to quiz me. He told me I had to watch "Christmas Vacation" and "Elf," and they were hilarious. "A Christmas Story" is the only one I haven't watched. (S Merkin - MLB.com - December 2015)
Robin Ventura was listening to a reporter's question following a 5-2 White Sox victory over the Blue Jays, when the manager interrupted before he could finish. This particular inquiry dealt with Chris's stature among American League starting pitchers.
"He's the best," said Ventura without hesitation. "You can say I'm biased or not, he's still the best."
"When I'm on the baseball field, there's nothing I love more than winning. A close second is keeping my guys in the bullpen, too," Sale said. "They've been working their butts off and used a lot and doing a great job. Any time you can get them a day off and freshen them up a little bit, especially with the day off tomorrow too, that's big."
"Definitely one of the best in the game, no question about that," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "It's obvious when you watch him pitch." (Merkin - MLB.com - 6/27/16)
July 6, 2016: Sale celebrates being selected an All-Star in every year he has been a starter. Sale joins lefthander Billy Pierce (1955-59) as the only pitchers in franchise history to make five straight AL All-Star teams. Per Elias, Frank Thomas (1993-97), Luis Aparicio (1958-62), Nellie Fox (1951- 61) and Pierce are the only other White Sox to be selected to five consecutive squads. (Scott Merkin - MLB.com)
July 11, 2016: Tony Gwynn will be on everybody's mind during All-Star Game festivities, perhaps no more poignantly than how his death affected Chris Sale.
"He actually made a very big impact in my life. I chewed tobacco from 2007 until the day he passed away," Sale said at a news conference. "I remember seeing that, and just being so shocked. He was a larger-than-life person. He was an inspiration to the game for many, many people for a lot of different reasons. But I quit that day, and I haven't touched it since. (Bernie Wilson - AP Sports)
July 23, 2016: The White Sox remained tight-lipped about the decision to scratch ace Sale from his scheduled start at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale (14-3) was supposed to start Chicago's game against the Tigers, which was suspended by rain after eight innings with the score tied at 3. Instead, he was sent home after a pregame incident in the home clubhouse.
A source told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi the incident stemmed in part from Sale protesting the use of throwback jerseys, which was tied into a jersey giveaway for fans. The club has not confirmed that detail, which was first reported by Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports.
Prior to the game, the White Sox issued a statement from general manager Rick Hahn about the decision to send Sale home. "Chris Sale has been scratched from tonight's scheduled start and sent home from the ballpark by the White Sox due to a clubhouse incident before the game," Hahn said in the statement. "The incident, which was non-physical in nature, currently is under further investigation by the club."
The statement concluded with the White Sox saying no further comment will be made until their investigation is complete. (B Hedger - MLB.com - July 24, 2016)
July 23, 2016: Sale was suspended five days. "Chris has been suspended for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment," said Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president and general manager. "While we all appreciate Chris's talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organizational expectations."
July 25-28, 2016: The issue, for Sale, began in Spring Training when the players were fitted for the special jerseys, which in 2015 were too large and therefore uncomfortable to play in. Throwback days are popular with fans and often are accompanied by a spike in attendance. Switching uniforms at the last moment, without an opportunity to inform fans of the change, certainly could have engendered frustration on the part of fans who came to see the team play in those uniforms. Sale said that players were not fans of the 1976 throwback jersey overall, and he said then that if the jerseys fell on his day to pitch, he didn't want to wear them, in part because he never had pitched in an untucked jersey in his life.
On the night before Sale's start, he was advised that the 1976 throwbacks were set for his start and Sale asked the clubhouse manager for a different uniform, then expressing the sentiment to pitching coach Don Cooper. Sale was in favor of the 1983 throwbacks, which eventually were worn that day, because he didn't want the untucked style of the 1976 uniform.
When he arrived and the 1976 throwbacks were set out for the players, Sale again took his issue to Cooper and manager Robin Ventura, with whom he admittedly lost his cool. He did not get the answer he wanted and, upon returning to the clubhouse, Sale reportedly cut up his uniform and then those of his teammates, rendering them unwearable.
"When I saw that there was something in the way of that 100 percent winning mentality, I had an issue," Sale said. "I tried to bring it up and say, 'Hey listen, these are my thoughts and concerns,' and they got pushed away because of the business deal that was set in place. I'll never understand why we need to do something on the business side on the field that might impede our winning a game. [The 1976 uniforms] are uncomfortable and unorthodox. I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. There's a lot of different things that went into it. Looking bad had absolutely zero to do with it. Nothing."
In the end, Ventura told Sale there would be no last-minute change. "I didn't put promotion in front of winning," Ventura said. "But I think we all have things that we have to do. There has to be a line somewhere, and that's what ended up happening."
"Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department," Sale said. "If the players don't feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix. It was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that's when I lost it."
Ventura made the decision to scratch Sale, and Sale apologized to the fans who came to see him and to his teammates, especially the bullpen, who he said he owes big time for their carrying the team in his place.
"I have regret, because I play 33 times a year at most in the regular season. So I put a lot of emphasis on when I play and I take a lot of pride in work that I do," Sale said. "When I can't or don't do that, yeah, I have disappointment in myself for not being there for my guys. Do I regret standing up for what I believe in? Absolutely not. Do I regret saying business should not be first before winning? Absolutely not." (Merkin - MLB.com)
When Chris cut up the White Sox throw-back uniforms from 1976 with a pair of scissors, it shocked the baseball world. But it did not shock those who had known Sale for years.
Seven-year White Sox teammate John Danks: "I wasn't completely shocked by it."
High school teammate and Pittsburgh Pirate Drew Hutchinson: "I wouldn't say I was surprised."
High school pitching coach Bob Gendron: "Nothing surprises me with him."
Even his own father: "I can't say it surprised me." (Jason Schwartz - ESPN the Magazine - 5/29/2017)
December 2016: Sale said he was changing the jersey number he’s worn for the last seven seasons with the White Sox. The reason? Out of respect for Tim Wakefield.
Wakefield wore the No. 49 for all 17 of his seasons with the Red Sox, retiring after the 2011 season with 200 career wins. Sale will no wear No. 41, the same number he wore in college at Florida Gulf Coast University and with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League in 2009.
“Wakefield deserves to hold on to that number,” Sale said. “He had way too impressive of a career to give that out again. No way I wanted it.”
From a rapid rise to Major League stardom, to ripping management and shredding throwback jerseys, Red Sox ace Chris Sale hasn't once paused to be ordinary.
Seven years before trading their best player to the Red Sox in a franchise-altering blockbuster, the White Sox discovered him on the mound at Fenway Park. How's that for a juicy slice of irony?
As David Price vents on Twitter, Chris Sale shuts out the noise. A certain Red Sox ace has been hitting social media to answer his detractors. Chris Sale? He ignores them. That could be a blessing for him in Boston.
Chris threw only six pitches on July 24, 2009, in the bottom of the third inning of the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, retiring three batters in less time than it would have taken to get through the line at one of Fenway's concession stands.
But the fleeting sight of a 6-foot-6 lefty with a power fastball and a three-quarters arm angle that accentuated an 82-inch wing-span so ridiculous it's almost mythical was branded on White Sox scout Nick Hostetler's brain like the logo on a pair of Levi's.
"He was lights-out," Hostetler recalled. "He was awesome."
What followed over the next 13 months formed the foundation of a career that has seen Sale become the best lefthanded pitcher in the American League. Sale's journey also helps in understanding what might compel someone to lash out at his bosses over the amount of time a teammate's son is allowed to spend in the clubhouse or to cut up throwback jerseys before a start because he found them constricting.
In the 378 days after he walked off the mound at Fenway, Sale turned 21, became a father, went 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA for Florida Gulf Coast University and was runner-up for the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top collegiate baseball player. He also slid out of the top 10 in the draft (and lost out on about $1 million) and made his Major League debut in the eighth inning of a game in Baltimore with the White Sox in the throes of a playoff push. At no time did Sale pause to be ordinary.
Sale's "inverted "W" pitching motion scared off some scouts during his days at Florida Gulf Coast University. (Anderson Independent Mail - Mark Crammer)
Of the six pitchers drafted ahead of Sale in 2010, three have reached the big leagues, as of Spring Training 2017. Jameson Taillon, Drew Pomeranz and Matt Harvey faced an average of 1,373 batters in the minors. Sale faced 43. So to call Sale's rise to the Majors "meteoric" would be giving too much credit to meteors.
"We're trying to figure out who to take and [then-White Sox general manager] Kenny [Williams] says, 'You know, this guy could potentially help us in the bullpen here in Chicago before the year is out,'" said Buddy Bell, the longtime former big league third baseman and White Sox assistant GM who was the club's farm director at the time. "Frankly, I thought he was crazy. That's way out of the box. But we never really thought Chris was going to get to us."
In 2009, Sale led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts. And he was the nation's best college pitcher as a junior. The White Sox believed Sale could go as high as second overall to the Pirates. Other teams weren't as sold. Mostly, talent evaluators were concerned about his pitching motion, "an inverted W," in scout-speak—in which his elbows at one point are higher than his wrists and shoulders.
"Scouts would ask me, 'Do you think he's going to break down?' I was like, 'If you watch him play catch, that's his arm slot,'" FGCU coach Dave Tollett said. "They asked for every medical they could have on him. They would call our trainers and go, 'Does he come in for treatment every day?' Our trainers were like, 'We don't ever see the dude.'"
Tollett tried to insulate Sale from most of the chatter, but that was impossible. It was OK. Sale had other things on his mind anyway.
Sale's son, Rylan, is a big reason the fiery ace blasted White Sox GM Kenny Williams after teammate Adam LaRoche chose to retire instead of acquiesce to a demand that he limit the time his own son, Drake, spent with the team.
In the fall of 2009, Sale and his girlfriend, Brianne Aron, found out they were going to have a son. Rylan Sale was born in early May, a few weeks before the Atlantic Sun Tournament and a month before the draft. Suddenly, Sale's perspective changed. He remained as competitive as ever on the mound, but his priorities were at home.
"To do what he did as a junior—win national player of the year [selected by "Collegiate Baseball"], go undefeated, get drafted in the first round and get the news halfway through the season that there's a baby on the way, it was a lot for a 20-year-old to handle," Tollett said. "I don't know if anyone else that I've ever coached could've handled that the way he did."
In March of 2011, Sale told the Chicago Tribune that after Rylan was born, "I had no choice but to do well. Two other people were depending on me. Sometimes people talk about girlfriends and things like that as distractions and say, 'Don't bring what's happening off the field to the field.' For me, it was good to bring it to the field."
Brianne and Rylan have been with Sale through everything. Sale declined to attend the draft in order to watch from home with his family, including 1-month-old Rylan. Brianne, who married Sale in 2011, got him involved in a nonprofit that provides shoes to needy children.
And during a conference call the morning after being traded to the Red Sox, Sale shared a message from White Sox reliever Nate Jones, who said his young daughter would miss Rylan.
It's easy to see why Sale had such a strong reaction last spring, when the White Sox imposed limits on how much time first baseman Adam LaRoche's son, Drake, could spend in the clubhouse. LaRoche chose to retire, prompting Sale, the team's longest-tenured player, to blast then-GM Kenny Williams and hang the jerseys of Adam and Drake in his locker.
"I know he's had some incidents where he's said some things he probably shouldn't have," Bell said. "But he has never really cared about anything other than his teammates and just getting people out."
Said Tollett: "Chris is going to stick up for family. I think if the LaRoche thing happened again somewhere else, he would do the same thing because he believes in his heart it's right."
Hostetler knows how this must sound now, hindsight being 20/20 and all, but he insists he never shared the concerns of his scouting brethren. On reports he filed for the White Sox, he said he noted that Sale's arm action was "loose and free." Sale also got the stamp of approval from longtime White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
If anything, Hostetler questioned whether Sale's body would withstand the rigors of a pro season. Even now, Sale is skinny as a pipe cleaner. But as his outgoing father, Allen, told any scout who would listen, long and lanky runs in the family. Sale's grandfather, Harold, was nicknamed "Streamline" because of his tall, thin build, but he nevertheless excelled at diving and skiing.
"It's Chris's genetic build," Hostetler said. "Every now and then, some guys are just physical freaks, and Chris is one of those guys. I can look at a cheeseburger and put on five pounds, and he eats 20 of them and he won't. I always hated him for that."
A cheeseburger actually helped heighten Hostetler's opinion of Sale.
"One of the main reasons we drafted him sometimes gets in his way, and that's his passion and his emotion and his fire. That's who Chris is. If he feels strongly about something, he will speak his mind about it, he will take action. I think he's realized that lashing out in certain situations like he did might not be the best way to handle it professionally, even though personally that's kind of the way he handles things."
White Sox scout Nick Hostetler was at FGCU on May 8, 2010, when Sale struck out 11 batters in a four-hit shutout against East Tennessee State. You almost wouldn't have noticed him ducking behind the dugout between innings to expel a burger that had left him stricken with food poisoning.
"It was kind of another trump card for me," Hostetler said. "In my reporting, I could say, 'I told you how tough he is, but the kid had food poisoning and still pitched like that.'"
Sale wowed Hostetler with other feats, including three consecutive strikeouts on nine fastballs in a row during a Cape Cod League game. Alas, the White Sox would have bet their ballpark on Sale being long gone by the time they made the 13th overall pick, at least until his representatives called on draft night to gauge Chicago's interest.
The White Sox drafted Sale, signed him to a $1.65 million bonus and made no promises when they sent him to Class A Winston-Salem to pitch in relief. But at Williams' direction, they had clear intentions: Find out if he was a viable candidate to help their bullpen down the stretch. It took all of three outings to get an answer.
"Buddy Bell called and he said, 'Chris made our decision,'" Hostetler said. "I said, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'He's coming to the big leagues. This is ridiculous.'" Said Bell: "You dream of a guy in the bullpen with that kind of angle, that kind of velocity. With that kind of look, you go, 'Wow, this guy could really help us in the big leagues.' Before and after, that has never come up [with a draftee]. Chris Sale is the only guy we've ever talked about that with."
It went beyond the quality of Sale's stuff or the uniqueness of his delivery, too. After everything he had been through over the past year, the White Sox thought he would be able to handle being rushed to the big leagues. "His will and his drive, really what was between his ears, was even better than what his stuff was," Hostetler said.
Chris became one of the most popular players in the White Sox clubhouse. A lot of pitchers are aloof, says former White Sox slugger Paul Konerko, but Sale was "one of the guys.
He'd dole out gifts to teammates and staff, like golf clubs or gift cards. And on the road, Sale often got a suite so teammates could hang out, order room service and play video games (mostly FIFA).
"Give Chris room service and video games and he's happy," Konerko said. "I you're telling me one of his issues is that he cares too much and he flies off the handle when he doesn't like somebody insulting him or a teammate and he goes nuts, like, I'm cool with that."
When Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski traded for Sale he said he looked into the pitcher's behavior and was satisfied.
"He's got an edge to him, a good edge," Dombrowski told reporters. "His teammates love him."
"I'm not ashamed by anything I've done on the field," Chris said. "That's adrenaline going; that's being competitive." (Jason Schwartz - ESPN the Magazine - 5/29/2017)
Sale isn't afraid to speak his mind—whether it's to his former manager, Robin Ventura, or further up the chain of command—or to act out. Sale was suspended by the White Sox in 2016 for shredding Chicago's 1976 throwback jerseys before a game.
Save for 11 appearances in the minors before getting called up, Sale, now 27, has never pitched in a game in which winning wasn't the highest priority. His rapid ascent to the big leagues spared him the years of development in which players are judged as much on the process of trying to get better as the actual results, which perfectly suited someone whom Hostetler described as "one of the most competitive human beings I've ever been around."
But get in Sale's way of being at his best and, well, hide the scissors. The White Sox suspended Sale for one start last season after he shredded 1976 throwback jerseys that featured a collar. Sale had told Williams, general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura that he found the jerseys to be restrictive, but the team went ahead with its plan to wear them anyway.
"One of the main reasons we drafted him sometimes gets in his way, and that's his passion and his emotion and his fire," Hostetler said. "That's who Chris is. If he feels strongly about something, he will speak his mind about it, he will take action. I think he's realized that lashing out in certain situations like he did might not be the best way to handle it professionally, even though personally that's kind of the way he handles things."
"I've seen that kid smile like that four or five times, like the day Rylan was born. He was elated. He wants to play for a championship. "Dave Tollett, Sale's coach at FGCU, on the pitcher's reaction to being traded to Boston during the winter meetings
The Red Sox looked into Sale's behavior but weren't scared off, according to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. On the contrary, Dombrowski believes Sale benefits from pitching with what he calls "a good edge."
Sale posted a 1.93 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 23 innings after getting called up in 2010, but the White Sox missed the playoffs. They didn't get there in 2011 either, when Sale remained in the bullpen and recorded a 2.79 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 71 innings. The White Sox moved Sale to the rotation in 2012. He ranks first in ERA (3.04) and third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.04) among 51 American League pitchers with at least 500 innings over the past five seasons.
And for all the hand-wringing about those crazy mechanics, he has had only one arm-related visit to the disabled list.
"In 2010, how many teams would've done what they (the White Sox) did? It's hard to say now, but probably not very many," Sale said. "They drafted me in the first round when people had questions. They brought me up to the big leagues really fast when people had questions. They had my back a lot and gave me opportunities that not a lot of people would've given me."
And in 13 months, it helped make Sale into what he is. (Scott Lauber - ESPN Staff Writer - Dec. 2016)
Jan 21, 2017: Sale figured he probably had to win some games for his new team before the knowledgeable and passionate Red Sox fans treated him like one of their own. It turns out he was wrong. The lefty spent two days at the team's annual Winter Weekend convention at Foxwoods somewhat amazed by the most enthusiastic welcome wagon he's ever seen.
"You're kind of blown away," said Sale. "This is my first time being able to interact with the new fans and this fan base. For that to be my first impression, it's incredible."
It started when Sale was announced to an audience before the team's Town Hall event. And it continued, as he was given a pat on the back or a handshake with just about every step he took.
"They've got a lot of fans," said Sale. "It's great. It's a passion. You can feel it. Taking pictures with people today, signing autographs, you see how happy they are and how energetic they are about sports and about this team. You can't help but to feed off that and to just have a certain energy going into the season with all that happening and being around you. It makes me a little bit more comfortable about the transition."
The winter has been exciting for the five-time All-Star for reasons beyond the trade. His wife, Brianne, gave birth to Brayson, the couple's second son, on Dec. 14. (I Browne - MLB.com - Jan 22, 2017)
The uniform will be different for Chris, but his role remains the same. Following another dominant start to the 2017 season, the Red Sox's ace took the mound as the American League's starting pitcher for the second consecutive All-Star Game.
"I'm very appreciative of it," Sale said. "A lot of hard work and dedication goes into this, not only on my end, but the people I'm surrounded by. The people in my corner—my catchers, my teammates, my coaching staff—I've been very lucky to be where I'm at right now with the Boston Red Sox, and have that transition going as smoothly as it has been." (Bastian - mlb.com - 7/10/17)
Sale's nickname is "STICKMAN." The name is a reference to Sale's lanky frame, which has been passed down through the generations in his family.
July 2018: Sale is only the third pitcher to start in three straight All-Star Games. He joined Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez (AL, 1933-35) and Robin Roberts (NL, 1953-55).
Jan 19, 2019: When last you saw Chris Sale, he was putting away Manny Machado, who fell to one knee, to end the World Series with about the most wicked slider humanly possible. But in the days and weeks leading up to that, you saw a lefty ace who was trying to get his full health back after an unsettling bout of left shoulder inflammation. So when it comes to encouraging developments at Red Sox Winter Weekend, the fact that Sale is a full go again and feeling great about where he's at with his shoulder is at or near the top of the list.
"Good, really good," said Sale. "I've been working out at JetBlue the entire offseason, going up there four or five days a week and training, so we have a good setup going."
While Sale is always a focal point with the Red Sox, it will have an added element in 2019 because the lanky lefty is eligible for free agency after the season. Would Sale talk extension with the club before that? "My phone is on if they call me," said Sale. "Obviously nothing has happened up until this point. If they call, I'd answer."
Sale doesn't think that the specter of free agency will have any impact on his preparation or performance for 2019.
"I'm not doing anything different," Sale said. "Just more of the same. I think for me personally, I just keep doing what I've always done. I've never really paid attention to stats or numbers or dollars and cents and all this other stuff. I just look at the left and right column and try and get more in the left than the right. "My goals, my mindset, my everything doesn't change. I just keep playing baseball, and we'll either figure it out over the next couple months or figure it out in a few months. One or the other."
For the first time in his career, Sale will enter Spring Training already having won a World Series. How does that change things for him?
"Instead of winning [one] World Series, I want to win another one," Sale said. "Nothing changes. My wife asked me that same question. You work your entire life to achieve this goal, so what do you do once you achieve it? I said, 'You do it again.' It's why we sign up. You win once and you want to keep winning, and when you don't win, all you want to do is win. Our goal is to continue to keep winning games and win a couple of those trophies."
To get another one, the Red Sox will need a lot more wipeout sliders from Sale, who did get a few chances to look at the ones that ended the 2018 baseball season at Dodger Stadium.
"I've watched it maybe a couple hundred thousand times," quipped Sale. "It never gets old. Those last few, even just watching kind of the highlights from the entire series, it's really special. It's cool. I've worked my entire life, and we as a team worked from Day 1 of Spring Training to get there. And we got it. It was everything you can dream of." (I Browne - MLB.com - Jan 19, 2019)
Fun fact about Chris Sale: He went to FGCU and Jacob deGrom went to rival Stetson (also in Florida). deGrom was both a shortstop and pitcher there. He hit one homer in his NCAA career, and that came off Chris Sale. Pretty cool.
June 2010: The White Sox made Sale their first round pick in the draft—the 13th player chosen overall. And Chris signed, via scout Joe Siers, for a bonus of $1.65 million.
March 7, 2013: Sale and the White Sox agreed on a five-year contract extension worth $32.5 million, with two options years that could bring the deal up to $60 million.
Sale will receive $32.5 million guaranteed over the first five years of the deal, with club options for the next two years. The White Sox hold options for 2018 at $12.5 million and for 2019 at $13.5 million.
Chris receives $850,000 in 2013, $3.5 million in 2014, $6.0 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016, and $12 million in 2017. Before the extension, Sale was scheduled to earn $600,000 in 2013.
That deal is a super-contract for the White Sox, who control the rights to Sale for, at most, $59 million over seven years, with only $32.5 million guaranteed. This isn't just a great contract. It's one that to build a team around, and that's exactly what White Sox GM Rick Hahn is doing.
Hahn put together the contract extension, buying out three years of salary arbitration and three of free agency.
December 6, 2016: The White Sox sent Sale to the Red Sox for four prospects—INF Yoan Moncada, RHP Michael Kopech, OF Luis Alexander Basabe, and pitcher Victor Diaz.
Nov 2, 2017: The Red Sox on exercised their 2018 club option on Sale for $12.5 million. Boston also holds a $13.5 million option on him for 2019.
- March 22, 2019: Sale and the Red Sox agreed to a six-year, $160 million contract. The deal includes an opt-out clause after the 2022 season and some of the money is deferred.
Sale has a lively 93-100 mph FASTBALL, a 91-95 mph two-seam SINKER, an 79-82 mph SLIDER that has late break and is a major problem for lefty hitters, and a swing-and-miss 86-88 mph CHANGEUP that is a real weapon vs. righthanded hitters.
Most pitchers have one or two dominant pitches they rely on, with other inferior offerings. Part of what allows Chris to focus on pitch location is the fact that all three of his pitches—fastball, slider, changeup—are all swing-an-miss, devastating choices.
Sale chooses how hard he wants to throw each pitch, and is adept at changing speeds—adding and subtracting velo—so that all three pitches really multiply into more: a harder slider at times, a slower heater at other times, and so on.
It is worth noting that Chris typically makes more starts in a season on extra rest that he does on regular rest.
"I'm not a big muscular guy," Sale said. "I'm just trying to stay long and loose as more the key to my success. I don't need to like do power lifting or anything like that. I mean I do squats; we do dead lifts. Aa lot of pulling. I don't do a whole lot of pushing because it puts pressure on the front of my arm." (Evan Drellich - November, 2017)
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 45.3% of the time; Sinker 15.6% of the time; Change 14.1%; and Slider 25% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 37.5% of the time; 2-seam Sinker 13% of the time; Changeup 16.5% and Slider 33% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: Fastball 38.6.9% of the time; 2-seam SINKER 11.3% of the time; Changeup 15.5% of the time; and Slider 34.6% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 95.6 mph, Sinker 93.1, Changeup 87.3, and Slider 80 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 36% of the time, his Sinker 10.3%; Changeup 15.3%; and Slider 38.4% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.8 mph, Sinker 92.4, Changeup 85.5, and Slider 79.3 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: Did not pitch.
- 2021 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 47.7% of the time, his Sinker 1.4%; Changeup 18.6%; and Slider 32.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.9 mph, Sinker 92.3, Changeup 86.7, and Slider 78.4 mph.
FUNKY MOTION: Chris comes at hitters from a funky, herky-jerky, low three-quarters angle. He throws strikes. He seemingly can't wait to get the ball back from the catcher and fling it. Given the caliber of his stuff, it's hard to blame him.
"That makes it tough, especially with a guy that is lefthanded with a funky arm angle and funky motion," former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said in 2012 about Sale's ability to pound the zone.
Sale is a live-armed lefthander with a lanky frame and an unorthodox delivery with a low arm angle. His slight build and violent, unconventional motion raise red flags, but he is strong and could hold up and be healthy for years.
Between his bird-bone physique and the inverted W, and indicator of a future blown-out elbow, Chris is the poster child for the hurler destined to break down.
It takes more strength and torque for a skinny pitcher to generate the same velocity as his heftier cohorts, which is why pitchers under 200 pounds have become endangered as scouts look for stronger bodies and steam stress weight training.
But truth is, Sale would've been freakishly thin in any era. Since 1950, only three other pitchers—all relievers—have stood 6-feet-5 or taller, and weighed 180 or less. And they aren't exactly household names: Jim Pearce, Dave Pavlas, and Jerry Blevins.
"Obviously, arm angle for one. Lower three-quarters," Sale said. "Kind of hunched over a little bit when I kind of come up to balance. I cross-fire a little bit.
"My landing foot is here [toward home plate] and my other foot is more toward first base. I've actually corrected it a little bit. I've moved it over three or four inches, but I still have that. Those are the main things that I do different from most."
Sale has impressive mound presence. He is poised and able to make adjustments on the fly. He does a good job of pitching his way out of trouble.
Scouts say Chris reminds them of John Danks and Mark Buehrle. Sale also has been compared to Dan Plesac and a lefty version of Jack McDowell.
Sale has pitch-ability. Former White Sox G.M./now V.P. Kenny Williams is very impressed.
"When you can throw strikes and got some deception and throw strikes with all your pitches and got some action, particularly on the changeup he has, which I think is one of the toughest pitches to hit when you have a fastball on both sides of plate, you can pitch in this league," Williams said in 2010. "Can you handle it from a mental standpoint? Well, some things we'll have to find out together."
Sports Illustrated had the following "Modest Proposal" in the April 1, 2013 issue, concerning Sale.
To protect him, they should manage him less like a workhorse ace and more like the Red Sox once used Pedro Martinez. That means using a full five-man rotation so that Sale sometimes starts on five days' rest, employing occasional skipped starts or D.L. trips for minor injuries, and keeping his in-game pitch counts well out of the danger zone of the 120s.
Martinez made 30 starts just three times in seven years in Boston. But he was so effective with the lighter workload that he won the Cy Young twice with 29 starts and finished third in a another 29-start season. That should be the model for Sale. (Albert Chen)
"He's filthy; he's a true No. 1 guy who can go out there and dominate, strike out 10-plus a game," Mark Buehrle said of Sale. "You can see comparisons between him and Randy Johnson. When you're that filthy ... you can get away with a lot more than some other guys can." (January 20, 2015 - DVC)
In 2012, Sale struck out 24.9 percent of the batters he faced—a rate topped by only Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, and Cole Hamels among lefthanded starters that season.
- In 2013, Luke Scott of the Orioles commented on Sale: "He's really, really tough on lefties," Scott said. "He's tough on righties, too, but with his arm angle for lefties, it gives a lot of trouble, and then it's the combination of stuff and the ability to control different parts of the zone with it. He locates his fastball, his slurve, his changeup, too.
"As a hitter, it's something that you're not used to. He throws it out of the same release point. If he didn't do that, you would be able to pick up on it, but you're getting ready for anywhere from 93 to 97 mph and it makes it tough to stay back on that breaking ball.
In 2014 and 2015, his changeup was becoming his best pitch. In 2010, when the White Sox drafted Sale out of Florida Gulf Coast University, then-GM Ken Williams felt his changeup was his best pitch. But when he was hurried to the big leagues as a reliever, he turned into a fastball-slider guy, throwing his changeup only 5.6 percent of the time in 2010 and 11.6 percent in 2011, according to Brooks Baseball.
When he moved into the rotation in 2012, he threw the changeup only 14.8 percent of the time. He became more comfortable with it last season, throwing it 19.2 percent of the time, and during the 2014 season he was throwing more changeups than sliders.
With Statcast, we can take a look at the starting pitchers who have allowed the lowest velocity of batted balls. And as of May 20, 2015, Sale had the softest exit velocity of any starting pitcher in MLB—83.7 mph. (Dillon Gee of the Mets: 84 mph exit velocity; Wei-Yin Chen 84.5, Dallas Keuchel 84.9 and Clayton Kershaw had an 85.4 average velocity of the ball leaving the bat, as of 5/20/15.)
June 3, 2015: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sale became the fourth pitcher in White Sox history with 10 or more strikeouts in three straight starts, joining Ed Walsh (Aug. 4-11, 1910), Floyd Bannister (May 7-16, 1985), and Edwin Jackson (Aug. 14-31, 2010). Sale’s 12-strikeout performance against the Rangers put him in select company as one of five pitchers since 1965 to record 12 or more strikeouts in consecutive scoreless starts.
On May 28, Sale, who pitched seven scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts in the White Sox’ 9-2 win, fanned 12 Orioles over 7 2/3 innings and joined Chan Ho Park (2000), Hideo Nomo (1995), Roger Clemens (1987), Nolan Ryan (1978) and Sandy Koufax (1965) as only pitchers since 1965 to achieve that feat.
Sale struck out 10 or more in four straight starts. He's the first White Sox pitcher to accomplish that feat and the first in the Major Leagues since David Price did it in five straight games for the Rays last season. Sale also has struck 12 or more in three straight games, becoming the first in the Majors to do that since Randy Johnson in 2001.
There's no certain way to predict in 2015 if Chris someday will reach the highest of Major League Baseball heights much like Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson have achieved. But based on Sale's performance over a span of five or six starts, including 14 strikeouts during a 2-1 loss to the Rangers, Sale is pitching at a Hall of Fame-caliber level.
Sale joined Martinez (Sept. 4-27, 1999, with Boston) and Johnson (June 19-July 11, 1998, with Seattle) as the only pitchers in Major League history to record 12-plus strikeouts in five consecutive starts. He has fanned 93 over his last 61 1/3 innings and matched a season high with his strikeout total against the Rangers over eight innings.
Sale extended a franchise record for double-digit strikeout games to 25, and he has struck out at least one in 35 straight innings. That represents the longest streak in the Majors. He has struck out 10-plus batters in six straight starts, becoming the first pitcher to do so since Johnson in 2002 with Arizona. (Merkin - mlb.com - 6/19/15)
Sale wanted to talk more about Chris Sale, the baseball athlete. Along with the 12 strikeouts against one walk and one run allowed over eight innings, Sale picked up his first career hit with a two-strike single off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn in the third. Sale scored the team's only run until Tyler Flowers' game-deciding homer, and even slid in safely for good measure on Jose Abreu's single.
"The slide was a little much," said White Sox Manager Robin Ventura of Sale. "He was real proud that he got dirty."
"It's my first one in like nine years. What do you expect?" said a laughing Sale of Ventura's slide critique. "I got to do a few things I normally don't do. It was cool. I tell these guys I had two accidents today: the homer [to Randal Grichuk] and the hit."
As far as the pitching accomplishments reached during his 100th career start, Sale didn't want to make those a featured topic. He comes from the Paul Konerko leadership school that in-season always is about team-first.
"Those kinds of things don't really matter to me," Sale said. "There's a time and a place for that stuff, and it's not now, not here." (Merkin - mlb.com - 7/1/15)
Sale always can look back on Aug. 16, 2015, and remember the game in which he combined with Nate Jones to strike out 18 Cubs in a victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
Those 18 strikeouts are the most in any nine-inning Major League game since the Angels struck out 20 against Seattle on Sept. 25, 2012. They also stand as the most all-time in a nine-inning game for the White Sox, who struck out 19 over 16 innings against the Mariners on June 5, 2013.
Chris Sale, as ESPN.com writer Jayson Stark said: "He's the winner of the Holy Crap I Never Want to Face That Guy competition.
Just mention this dude's name to the hitters who have to face him. The look on their faces takes it from there. It's pretty much the same look you see on the videos of crazy people trying to outrun the bulls in Pamplona. Those same wide eyeballs. That same flush in their cheeks. That same palpitational expression as they realize that ohhhhh no, this isn't going to end well.
"He's that guy who, [when] you see he's pitching, all of a sudden your hamstring gets tight or something," Brian Dozier says of Sale. "You don't know if you can make it that game."
"I try to save up any sick days or off days I have, and use them when he's starting," says Cleveland's Jason Kipnis. "I've timed it up perfectly, I think, since 2013. If I had an off day coming up, I'd push it back a week until we were playing the White Sox and use it on him. I play dodgeball with him. You know that old thing: 'How's your back?' 'Hmmm, it's tight today—the weather must be getting to me.' Or it's the old Rodney Dangerfield thing: 'Wait. My arm. Yeah, it's my arm.' That's how I feel when I know he's pitching." (Jayson Stark - 8/21/15)
September 1, 2015: Sale recorded double-digit strikeouts for the 13th time in 2015, becoming the first pitcher to accomplish that since Randy Johnson also had 13 games with 10-plus strikeouts in 2004.
September 24, 2015: Sale reached 1,000 career strikeouts. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Sale joins Billy Wagner (753), Octavio Dotel (820), Francisco Rodriguez (827), Kerry Wood (853) and Tim Lincecum (896) as the only pitchers to reach 1,000 with fewer than 900 innings. Sale did it over 876 innings, topping 200 for the season.
October 2, 2015: Sale broke the White Sox's strikeout record that had lasted for 107 years, passing the previous club record of 269 set by Ed Walsh in 1908. Walsh set his record in 464 innings, while Sale needed 203 innings to best it. Sale's average of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2015, is a White Sox record and the highest in the Major Leagues since Johnson had a 13.41 mark in 2001.
Sale struck out seven batters over seven-plus innings for a final total of 274. And he had a stretch early in the summer of 2015 where he had double-digit strikeouts in eight straight outings—something only Pedro Martinez had ever accomplished.
"There's a lot of stuff going on. I couldn't really pitch until I got it, and after that I settled in," Sale added. "It was fun. It was a great experience, something I'll never forget. It's awesome, something that hasn't set in yet, but I know what it means, I know what it is, I'm very thankful for it and appreciative of it."
His teammates applauded on the top step of the dugout and the U.S. Cellular Field crowd giving a standing ovation. (Merkin - mlb.com - 10/2/15)
To opponents and most experts in the science of pitching mechanics, it's an unsightly whirl of limbs, and the ball seems to emerge from somewhere up the first base line
"It's like they're trying to find the body part he's gonna throw with," said Robin Ventura, White Sox manager, in May 2016.
In 2016, Sale changed his pitching style a lot: from a pitcher who throws albeit astonishingly well, to a pitcher who thinks amazingly well.
"I was throwing it as hard as I can, and wherever it goes, it goes," Chris said of 2015 and before. "I (was) falling off the side I got my glove way up here, my arms over there. I just had s--- going everywhere."
In 2016? "I'm looking for efficiency," Sale says. "You can throw 100 mph and punch out 12 guys. But, if you're going five innings, it's a waste."
For Sale, that no longer means racking up as many Ks as possible, but as many outs, and with as few pitches as possible. Now:
"If I take a little off, I get more movement, and it's down in the zone, which creates more ground balls, more weak contact. I can strike him out and use five pitches. Or I can throw a couple sinkers, and he's out in two (pitches)."
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has seen such a transformation before.
"It's a characteristic of the top, top guys," he says. "They've got stuff in their tank when they need it, but they're managing the game, knowing when to add, when to subtract. I do believe this is pitching at the highest level." (Ben Reiter - Sports Illustrated - 5/23/2016)
May 20, 2016: Sale opened the season with nine straight wins, tying Brandon Webb in 2008 for the longest such streak since 1985.
September 11, 2016: Sale surpassed 200 strikeouts for the fourth straight season, the first White Sox pitcher to accomplish that feat, and eclipsed 200 innings for the third time in his career.
The Major League-record streak of consecutive games with double-digit (10 or more) strikeouts is eight, shared by Pedro Martinez (1999) and Chris (2015).
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper loves to talk about Sale, even though he's with a new Sox, exchanging White for Red.
"He had all the physical. I knew that from day one," Cooper said. "It was more the mental side. And keeping him under control and not throwing pitches out of anger. And just continue to focus on the next pitch. He would hate it when somebody got him. He would come out of his shoes."
And he harnesses his intensity better now.
"I just think for me, it's channeling it, like finding a tunnel," Chris said. "Early on as a starter, when I'd get into trouble, I went for more. And Coop's big thing was, it's never more stuff, it's just more focus."
May 19, 2017: Chris's evening started with a strikeout and ended with another addition to the MLB record book. With a 10-strikeout performance in a 3-2 walk-off loss to the A's in 10 innings,
Sale reached double-digit strikeouts for an eighth straight appearance, matching a Major League record he already co-owned with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.
Sale also accomplished the feat with the White Sox in 2015. Martinez rattled off eight straight 10-strikeout games for Boston in 1999.
July 1, 2017: Halfway through his first season with the Red Sox, Sale has been the most dominant pitcher in the American League. Along the way, he is putting together one of the best pre-All-Star break stretches of any pitcher in Red Sox history, placing himself in the company of franchise legends like Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez.
Sale improved to 11-3, lowered his ERA to 2.61 and increased his MLB-leading strikeout total to 166. The ace has been a constant force all season. Boston is a tough market to adjust to? Sale has disputed that notion by mowing down nearly every opponent in his path.
"I just try to block all that crap out, honestly. I'll let you guys talk about it," said Sale. "I've got a job to do. You're aware of it but just try not to focus on anything like that. I have a job to do, same as it always has been since I was a kid. Strike 1, strike 2, that stuff takes care of itself. I just try to stay on it and be as good as I can on and off the field."
On the field, Sale has been completely electric. He has struck out 10 or more in 11 of his 17 starts. Martinez in 1999 is the only other pitcher in Red Sox history to have that many double-digit K games before the break. Sale has one more start against the Rays on Thursday to set a new team record in that department. His strikeout total before the break trails only Clemens (186 in 1988) and Martinez (184 in 1999).
July 1, 2017: How has Sale carved up opponents so routinely? "He's the ultimate professional," said Red Sox assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister. "He believes in himself. He obviously has elite physical tools. But he really has a lot of nuance to how he pitches, too. It's not always the same speed, it's not always the same location. It's funky, it's a lot of uncomfortable at-bats.
You don't have to tell the Blue Jays. "When a guy can throw anything at any time, it's tough to lock in on anything. He reads guys and everybody has a different approach," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "You just have to hope he makes a mistake and if he does, you can't miss it. Easier said than done. But he attacks, he's very aggressive. If you give him a lead, normally guys like that don't cough it up."
"He's 6-foot-6, pitches from a funky arm slot, he steps across his body. He works fast," said Bannister. "There's a lot of change of speeds, change of shape, change of movement. That's what you like to see in a pitcher is affecting all those elements—the timing and vision that a hitter deals with." (I Browne - MLB.com - July 1, 2017)
Chris joined an elite club that is inhabited by only first-ballot Hall of Famers. Sale's 112th and final pitch in a 6-2 victory over the Angels was a 95.8-mph heater that Kole Calhoun didn't even come close to catching up to.
The strikeout to end the sixth inning was Sale's 200th of the season. A 200-strikeout season is considered impressive for any pitcher. To do it on July 21? That's another level of greatness.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sale joined Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in history to reach 200 strikeouts in 20 starts or less. Johnson, the only other lefty in the group, did it three times.
"It's cool. I definitely appreciate it," Sale said. "I'm not the biggest fan of looking into stuff like that. Those things are for the offseason or to one day tell my grandkids or something like that. But we've still got a lot of work to do, so I don't want to get caught up with stuff like that." (Browne - mlb.com - 7/21/17)
August 30, 2017: Sale typically isn't all that big on personal milestones, but even he couldn't help but admit that reaching 1,500 strikeouts faster than any pitcher in history is a feat to appreciate.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kerry Wood was the previous record holder by reaching 1,500 in 1,303 innings. Pedro Martinez (1,337 innings), Randy Johnson (1,366), Nolan Ryan, and Max Scherzer (1,394) round out the top five.
September 20, 2017: Chris knew he was approaching a magical milestone, but it wasn't until he heard the roars from the large contingent of Red Sox fans at Camden Yards and received an equally-warm reception from teammates upon his return to the dugout that he knew he got it.
Strikeout No. 300 in Sale's first season with Boston came on a wipeout slider that froze Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. It was Sale's 111th and final pitch of the night, and it led the Red Sox to a 9-0 victory over the Orioles.
On the strength of the 13-K, no-walk performance, Sale became the first AL pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to reach 300 Ks in a season. Sale also joined Martinez as the only pitchers in the long and storied history of the Red Sox to achieve that number. (Browne - mlb.com)
2017 season: When it came to the strikeout, Sale set himself apart in 2017 with 308. Cory Kluber was second in the AL with 265. The only pitcher in baseball to come within 40 Ks of Sale was Max Scherzer, who had 268.
To put into perspective how hard it is to strike out 300 batters in a season, consider that it's only been done 35 times since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Sale joined Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in Red Sox history to reach the milestone. And Sale finished just five K's behind the 313 that Martinez racked up in 1999 for the team's single-season record. Fenway Park always buzzed with excitement during Sale's starts, and he led the Majors with 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings, the third-best K/9 rate among starting pitchers in MLB history behind Randy Johnson's 13.4 in 2001 and Martinez's 13.2 in 1999.
Chris joins elite company by striking out Ryan Flaherty to end the bottom of the 8th, picking up his 300th strikeout of the season.
One thing that was key for Boston was that Sale didn't have to sacrifice control for his power. He had an impressive 7.16 K/BB ratio. Not only was Sale nasty, but he was durable. He made all 32 of his starts and led the Majors in innings with 214.Though Sale had some struggles down the stretch, he finished with a 17-8 mark, a 2.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. By comparison, Kluber went 18-4 with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.
Sale finished second to Kluber in the 2017 AL Cy Young voting.
The pitch: Chris Sale's slider. How he throws it: Sale has two different grips. He'll place his left index and middle fingers on the horseshoe of the stitching, then vary the placement of his thumb to produce a different result. The put-away slider usually clocks 80-82 mph. If you see one that has a little more bend, Sale generally has moved his thumb up the stitching. He likes to throw that early in the count to show batters something a little bit bigger.
How he uses it: Sale has enough confidence in his wicked slider to throw it in any count or any situation. It is often his put-away pitch with two strikes. For whatever reason, Sale's slider hasn't been in top form yet this season, which is why his strikeout total is well behind last year's pace. But he will likely rediscover his feel for the pitch soon. When Sale is at his best, the pitch tumbles into the dirt.
2018 Changes: Sale said he plans on changing speeds a lot more this season, with all of his pitches.
July 6, 2018: Chris hit a milestone: his 100th career win, including 96 since 2012.
July 2018: Sale has had 5 straight starts with 11 or more strikeouts. That was an MLB record.
July 27, 2018: Sale reached the 200-strikeout mark in 136 innings, faster than any pitcher in American League history. Sale held the previous mark, set last season in 141 1/3 innings. It was the sixth consecutive season Sale has reached 200 strikeouts. The last time Sale finished with less than 200 was 2012, when he had 192.
2018: A recent poll of MLB players agreed the Sale's slider is the nastiest pitch in baseball. So what is it about the Sale slider that can make even one of the best players in baseball buckle on the biggest stage?
"He's throwing it from a completely different angle," said catcher Yan Gomes. "You don't see many lefties throwing it from second base, and then, the next thing you know, the ball is at first base, and then you take it, but it's in the strike zone."
To a right-handed hitter like Gomes, the pitch begins in the Atlantic and winds up in the Pacific. Like Hall of Famer Randy Johnson before him, Sale's lanky 6-foot-6 frame and large wingspan contribute to the pitch's deception.
And for a left-hander? The ball seems to materialize from behind your back.
"Being a lefty and seeing that slider left-on-left, it's one of the sliders that people try to explain, but until you face it and get a chance to see it, it's hard to really talk about because it's just so crazy of a pitch," Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. "It honestly looks like a fastball out of his hand, and all of a sudden it looks like it's coming across slightly the way you look at it on the TV, but it moves like three feet and you're like, 'How the [heck] am I even supposed to hit that?'"
All told in 2018, batters hit a measly 23-for-204 (.113) on at-bats that ended on a Sale slider, per Statcast. And 57 percent of those at-bats ended in a strikeout. (Anthony Castrovince- MLB.com- Jan. 7, 2019)
Jan 19, 2019: The key to Sale's short- and long-term success is the strength of his left shoulder, which betrayed him starting in late July of last season 2018. Sale is doing everything he can to make sure there's no repeat of that in 2019.
"I've been playing catch for a couple of months and doing some things to strengthen my shoulder in the training room, but also doing some motions in the weight room to strengthen the shoulder and stuff like that," said Sale. "It's been good. Everything has been going well."
All Sale needs to do to feel the difference in his health is to play catch. "Obviously I felt normal again, being able to throw free and easy and feel loose and kind of have that whip back; it's obviously a nice feeling," Sale said. "We're just kind of building up with a normal offseason and getting ready for Spring Training 2019."
March 17, 2019: Red Sox manager Alex Cora tabbed Sale as his Opening Day starter against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 28.
April 16, 2019: Don't tell Red Sox ace Chris Sale about his significant uptick in velocity in the night's 8-0 loss to the Yankees. Don't tell him that his slider looked better than in recent starts. Sale doesn't like silver linings and doesn't want to hear about them. Sale likes to win, pure and simple. And the fact that he's 0-4 with an 8.50 ERA is making him feel downright ornery. Sale is also accountable.
"This is flat-out embarrassing," said Sale. "For my family, for our team, for our fans. This is about as bad as it gets. Like I said, I have to pitch better."
And his Red Sox have to play better—a lot better. This latest defeat dropped the defending World Series champions to 6-12, their worst start since manager Kevin Kennedy's squad went 3-15 in 1996.
Over the past two games the Red Sox have been outscored by 15 runs (16-1). And Mookie Betts is struggling as much as Sale. He went 0-for-3 against the Yanks and is hitting .212.
"I know who we are, the guys we've got in this group, we're resilient, we're going to keep fighting," Sale said. "Not going to hang our heads obviously. We know where we're at, we know we need to pick it up. Keep fighting, keep working, keep grinding and hopefully it will turn."
The thing about Sale is that he's not looking at his teammates to turn the tide. Though he only pitches once every five games or so, he expects himself to be the tone-setter. And Sale knows that the tone he has set this season, starting with the walloping he took on Opening Day at Seattle, has been the wrong one.
"It sucks," Sale said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I just flat-out stink right now. I don't know what it is."
Sale breezed through the first two innings against the Yankees and had a 1-2 count on DJ LeMahieu with two outs in the third, only to give up an RBI single as part of a two-run inning. The Yanks scored two more against Sale in the fourth.
After that inning, the lefty went back to the bench, took a sip from his drink and then angrily shoved something from the bench onto the ground. Sale then retreated to the tunnel, perhaps so he could display his anger more privately. In many ways, Sale's latest performance (five innings, seven hits, four runs, one walk, six strikeouts) was the most perplexing, because he did have nice uptick in velocity and generated better results with his slider, but he still couldn't deliver a shutdown performance.
Sale, who has an 8.50 ERA in four starts, threw 36 fastballs and averaged 95.4 mph while topping out at 97.5 mph. His previous best for average fastball velocity this season was 92.1 on Opening Day. Again, that was of no comfort to Sale.
"In terms of throwing, it was better. Still need to pitch better," said Sale. "Need to get results. Doesn't matter how hard you throw or how fancy, you need to throw up zeroes."
Looking at some other numbers, it is clear something is still amiss with Sale. His fastball generated just one swing and miss. In fact, of the 124 fastballs Sale has thrown this season, he's induced just two swings and misses. Overall, Sale generated 12 swings and misses in his 93-pitch performance.
"I'm not going to be surprised if his next outing he's right where we need him to be," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Stuff-wise, compare it to the first three with the velocity was there, the slider was a lot better, he's very close to the 'real Chris Sale.'"
Does Sale share his manager's optimism that he will throw a gem next time out?
"We better [expletive] hope so," said Sale. (I Browne - MLB.com - April 16, 2019)
May 14, 2019: Sale struck out a career-high 17 hitters against the Rockies. He became the first pitcher in history to strike out 17 or more batters in a start lasting seven innings or fewer.
“Yeah, fastball command and my slider was probably about as good as it’s ever been,” said Sale.
It was the first 17-K game for a lefty pitcher since Johan Santana for the Twins in 2007.
June 5, 2019: Sale pitched an immaculate inning in the 8th inning—nine pitches and three strikeouts. In fanning Royals Kelvin Gutierrez, Nicky Lopez and Martin Maldonado, Sale repeated a feat he accomplished just 28 days ago, on May 8 against the Orioles. The only other pitcher to do it twice in the same season was Hall of Famer Lefty Grove, against the Indians on Aug. 23, 1928, and the White Sox 35 days later, on Sept. 27.
July 13, 2019: In the early-season slump, velocity and lack of swings and misses were an issue. Now, it’s a command issue. Sale hit 98 mph in the first inning but couldn’t sustain it. He did generate 14 swings and misses on the night.
“Just trying to locate my fastball. That’s kind of the biggest thing. I’ve been throwing it all over the place,” Sale said. “I’m trying to throw it in, it’s going away. I’m trying to throw it away, it’s kind of yanking. All my hit by pitches this year, I think, have been on breaking balls to right-handed hitters. On breaking balls, that can’t happen.”
Aug 13, 2019: In the midst of a career that may eventually land him in the Hall of Fame, Red Sox ace Chris Sale became the fastest pitcher in Major League Baseball history to reach 2,000 career strikeouts in the 7-6 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field.
Sale achieved the milestone in 1,626 innings. The previous fastest was Pedro Martinez , who did it in 1,711 1/3 frames. Martinez reached No. 2,000 while pitching for the Red Sox in 2002.
"It's cool, it's special," said Sale. "I'm not a real big fan of stats, numbers and stuff like that. But I appreciate it. I think it's cool. A lot of people put in a lot of work getting me there. Obviously I appreciate all of them and have had some good catchers along the way. Good pitching coaches, good managers letting me go out there and stay out there. Good trainers, keeping me out on the field. As a whole, I appreciate it."
August 26, 2021: If there was any doubt that Chris was back, he quieted that notion in the third inning against the Twins at Fenway Park. Three up, three down on nine pitches, all strikes -- an immaculate inning. The last Red Sox pitcher to complete the feat? Sale, on June 5, 2019, vs. the Royals. And the pitcher before that game? Once again, Sale (May 8, 2019, vs. the Orioles). (Burkhardt - mlb.com)
As of the start of the 2022 season, Sale has a career record of 114-74 with 3.03 ERA, having allowed 178 home runs and 1,357 hits in 1,672 innings and 2,059 strikeouts, and only 386 BB, and 15 IBB.
In 2013, opponents were successful stealing on 19 of 21 opportunities with Sale on the mound.
So before and during 2014 spring training, Sale worked on his pickoff move.
April 21-May 21, 2014: Chris was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm.
February 27, 2015: Chris sustained an avulsion fracture on the lateral side of his right foot in an accident at his home. He waited for swelling to subside before further analysis was made.
March 27-April 12, 2015: Sale began the season on the D.L. with an avulsion fracture of his right foot.
July 28-Aug 12, 2018: The Red Sox placed Sale on the 10-day disabled list with mild left shoulder inflammation.Aug 18-Sept 11, 2018: Sale was back on the DL with mild left shoulder inflammation.
October 20, 2018: Chris Sale officially joined the Weird Injury Hall of Fame when he said the stomach illness that sent him to the hospital earlier in the week and forced him to miss his start in Game 5 of the ALCS was caused by irritation from a belly button ring.
Aug 17-Oct 31, 2019: Sale was on the IL with left elbow inflammation. There is clearly some uncertainty when it comes to the extent of Sale’s injury.
“There’s going to be further evaluations. This all just happened," said one Red Sox official. "Our doctors have looked at the MRI. We’ll have other doctors look at the MRI, too, so we’ll have further information that we’ll be getting over the next couple days. We’re in a situation where I don’t really know where it’s going to take us at this point.”
August 19, 2019: Chris was told by Dr. James Andrews that he will not need Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.
Aug 20, 2019: Dr. Andrews didn’t detect any ligament damage, instead seeing just the inflammation in the left elbow that Sale’s first MRI with Boston’s medical staff revealed a couple of days earlier. Sale received a platelet-rich plasma injection during his visit with Andrews.
While Sale believes he is on track to be at full health in 2020, the period of no throwing and a re-evaluation with Andrews in approximately six weeks takes away any realistic chance the lefty will pitch again this 2019 season.
Chris was shut down for the 2019 season due to inflammation in his left elbow. During a visit with Dr. James Andrews a couple of days later, Sale received a PRP shot to promote healing in his elbow.
“He’s recovering well,” said assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran. “We’re going to take everything step-by-step with Chris and his checkpoints as we go through the offseason, but we, at this point expect him to be healthy coming into Spring Training along with the rest of the rotation that we have under control.”
Nov 11, 2019: “Chris continues to do well,” said Red Sox GM O’Halloran. “He’s working out in Fort Myers and we anticipate that the schedule we laid out in the past, where he’ll at some point see Dr. Andrews for a check-up and then begin throwing if all goes well, which we anticipate that it will."
- Feb. 27, 2020-Aug 14, 2021: Sale will start the season on the injured list, manager Ron Roenicke announced.
Even though he’s going on the injured list, Sale isn’t injured. He reported to camp with pneumonia and will go on the 15-day injured list. Sale will remain in Fort Myers for extended spring training when the team leaves camp. Roenicke said that this has nothing to do with Sale’s elbow.
March 19, 2020: The Red Sox announced that their ace will undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Judging by previous timetables for starting pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery, a best-case scenario could have Sale pitching for the Red Sox in June or July of 2021. The lefthander underwent the procedure performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles on March 30.
April 7, 2020: Speaking to the media for the first time since he underwent Tommy John surgery, Chris expressed the determination to dominate his rehab much in the same way he has leveled opposing hitters through the years.
“I now know that I can get after this rehab,” he said. “It’s going to be 9 to 14 months of just getting after it and being able to get my body back in shape, and I’m going to have a better elbow than I did before. And that gives me confidence going forward.”
Feb 4, 2021: The good news regarding ace Chris Sale is that his left elbow continues to get stronger as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. However, he did have a setback with his neck. The Red Sox haven’t set a timetable for Sale’s return. Before the neck issue arose, June or July seemed to be a logical estimate for when he could come back.
“Big picture, Chris’ rehab from the Tommy John's going great. He did have a little setback with his neck,” said Bloom. “It’s actually unrelated to Tommy John rehab, but he had some stiffness in his neck. ... We don’t expect this to be a long-term concern, but we had to back off of his throwing just to make sure we’re taking care of his arm. He’s going to get treatment going forward to make sure it doesn’t recur. That’s just really more of a calendar thing. It set us back in terms of time, but his arm has done great.” (I Browne - MLB.com - Feb 4, 2021)
May 23, 2021: Sale is throwing, 'feels like a pitcher again'. Chris Sale is taking a subtle yet important step in his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
“He's throwing. He's getting off the mound, it's a couple of times a week right now, and definitely a shorter number of throws, but he's on the mound as part of a throwing program,” said Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush. “And he's building up strength and building up intensity. Where he is today, I'm not exactly sure, but he's definitely on the mound and building up and he feels really good about it.”
Sale is close to crossing that threshold from rehabbing pitcher to a pitcher who is in a more classic Spring Training build-up type of mode. (I Browne - MLB.com - May 23, 2021)
June 8, 2021: 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. 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.
June 22, 2021: The ace continues to make strides. After throwing a bullpen session at Double-A Portland, the next step for Sale will be a significant one. Prior to the Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park, Sale will throw to hitters for the first time since undergoing surgery on March 30, 2020.
“So far, so good,” said Alex Cora. “He’s in a good position. He feels great.”
July 6, 2021: Once again, Sale threw two innings. It was the third time in the last couple of weeks he’s faced hitters. The plan is for Sale to throw one more simulated game in Fort Myers and then the next step will be a Minor League rehab assignment.
Obviously [the rehab assignment] all depends on how he feels,” said Cora. “He’s excited. He felt great today. Just stay the course.”
July 20, 2021: Chris Sale faced 12 over 3 2/3 no-hit innings, striking out six and walking one in a scoreless rehab start for the Double-A Portland Sea Dog. His first pitch was measured at 96 mph on the stadium gun. The Red Sox left-hander matched that speed multiple times and topped out at 97.
“It was a good day, definitely a step in the right direction," Sale said. "I felt good throughout the entire game. Even in the third and fourth inning, I felt like I was able to create some arm speed and make pitches when I needed to, which at this stage in the game is key.”
- Sept 10-17, 2021: Sale was on the IL