On Tuesday night, Portland fans got to witness a vintage Chris Sale performance. The Boston Red Sox ace took the mound in front of a sold-out crowd and was unhittable. In 3.2 innings of work, Sale struck out six batters and only walked one. Of the 49 pitches he threw, 34 of them were strikes. It was an encouraging sign for Boston, with the trade deadline approaching.
In his second rehab start, Sale topped out at 98 MPH. The 31-year-old showed improvement with his off-speed stuff, and his velocity was consistently in the mid-’90s. Although Sale doubled his pitch total from his previous start, he was even better against stiffer competition. It was a good sign for the lefty as the Red Sox will continue to increase his workload.
While the Red Sox starters have performed better than last year, Sale’s return will be a significant addition. He has not pitched in the majors since 2019 but showed on Tuesday night that he can still be dominant. The biggest test will be how his arm reacts before his next start. Sale is still a few weeks away from returning to the majors; however, his first two rehab starts have provided plenty of optimism.
Chris Sale with his first strikeout in a Sea Dogs uniform! pic.twitter.com/h6gKOpdHw6
— Portland Sea Dogs (@PortlandSeaDogs) July 20, 2021
Although Sale has said he will play any role, the Red Sox want to avoid using him in relief. Having the former first-round pick pitch out of the bullpen would allow him to return sooner, but he is needed more as a starter. The Red Sox are expected to look for upgrades to the rotation, as anything they get from Sale would be a bonus.
Expectations for Sale
Over the next few weeks, Sale will be watched closely. With every start, his return to the majors gets closer. The key will be how his arm reacts as his pitch count increases. Regardless of how good he looks, the Red Sox will be careful with their ace. His return to the majors could be better than any trade deadline acquisition Boston will make.
Although Sale is a wildcard, his start on Tuesday couldn’t have gone any better. His off-speed pitches were deadly, and he was able to throw in the mid-’90s consistently. With the playoffs only weeks away, that is the version of Sale Boston will need for the remainder of the season. The Red Sox are currently 19 games over .500 but could get a key piece back sooner rather than later.
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