By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
It looks like Chris Sale will be shut down for the second time since Red Sox Spring Training started 21 days ago.
The lefty was sent for an MRI Tuesday morning after experiencing soreness in his elbow. Sale’s discomfort comes after throwing his first live batting practice session to Red Sox hitters over the weekend.
After watching Sale throw 18 pitches to minor league hitters on Sunday, Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush told reporters “he [Sale] felt pretty good and I thought he looked pretty good.” Obviously that didn’t last, as Sale’s condition is now in question two days later.
The results of the MRI were sent to high-profile surgeon Dr. James Andrews for analysis. While the team waits to hear back, interim manager Ron Roenicke admitted concern when speaking with the media Tuesday afternoon.
Sale’s elbow has been an issue since last summer. The 30-year-old was placed on the IL in mid-August with elbow inflammation. While Dr. Andrews determined at the time he wouldn’t need surgery, he was still shut down for the rest of the season.
With that extra time off, hopes were high for Sale heading into 2020. Those were quickly halted as a case of pneumonia caused Sale to miss the beginning of spring training. That delay proved to be enough to throw off his preparation, with the team announcing last week he would miss Opening Day and begin the season on IL.
Now, Opening Day is the least of the Red Sox worries with a potential serious elbow injury on the radar. Normally, Tommy John or other elbow procedures are given as quickly as possible to minimize missed time. However, injuries can often be missed or misdiagnosed.
The Yankees just dealt with a similar situation with their ace Luis Severino. After elbow soreness last fall, the Yanks determined Severino wouldn’t need Tommy John during the offseason. However, the soreness persisted as he began Spring Training, and he ended up needing TJ after all. In missing the injury, New York and Severino lost four months of rehab time, meaning Severino won’t only miss 2020 but possibly some of 2021 as well.
Could the Red Sox be about to face a similar situation with Sale? If a torn UCL or similar injury keeps him out of the 2020 season, it would be a crushing blow to their already fleeting title hopes.
Without the seven-time All-Star, the Red Sox have just three starting pitchers on their 40-man roster with MLB experience in Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez. That ‘rotation’ paired with a thin bullpen means even using openers, the Red Sox may find it difficult just to find innings out of the gate.
Of course, this could just be the normal discomfort of a 30-year-old pitcher, and Sale could return once his IL stint ends in April. But as they say, ‘hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.’ For this Red Sox team, ‘the worst’ is a season without Chris Sale, a reality they’re ill prepared to face.
As fans across all sports know, it’s never ideal for a season to come down to a Dr. James Andrews finding, but that’s exactly where the Red Sox are right now.
UPDATE: Red Sox management has met and discussed the initial findings of Sale’s MRI.
UPDATE: Sale told reporters in the clubhouse he will have more information on his status on Wednesday.