Mazz: Red Sox left praying for a miracle with Chris Sale's elbow and the threat of Tommy john surgery

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

In two words, here’s where things stand with Chris Sale: Hail Mary.

Get the picture? Were this a football game, the Red Sox would have the ball at their own 25-yard line, two seconds left, down by five. Even the Red Sox know it. Everything the Sox said today at spring training Fort Myers – from Sale to interim manager Ron Roenicke – suggested the Sox are kneeling by the side of their beds with their hands clasped, hoping for one last miracle before they do the seemingly inevitable.

Tommy John surgery.

If you think anything else is going on here, please awaken to the reality. According to reports Thursday, the Red Sox indicated Sale has a flexor strain in his left forearm and that recent tests showed no additional damage to Sale’s ulnar collateral ligament - the one that is replaced in Tommy John surgery. If you believe that, fine. But flexor strains and Tommy John go hand in hand, and this is now the second time in six months that Sale has been shut down.

Aug 13, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) reacts in the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) reacts in the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

In this case, it happened in spring training ... after he threw 15 pitches from a mound ... after more than six months off. Six ... months. The Sox sent immediately sent test results to Dr. James Andrews, the grim reaper of sports doctors, and Neal ElAttrache, then met with the media yesterday and indicated that no surgery is scheduled – for now – and that Sale will throw again this week.

Translation: We’re going to give this one final shot. We don’t feel great about it. If it doesn’t work, then...

Tommy John.

We’ve told you this already, but it can’t be emphasized enough. Why Sale didn’t have Tommy John surgery last fall is anybody’s guess – and it would be nice if someone gave us the real answer. Did Sale resist because he had signed a new five-year, $145 million contract (that begins this season) and wanted to do everything possible to honor it? Or did the Red Sox, knowing that an array of circumstances requiring the eventual trading of Mookie Betts and David Price, push them to take a gamble on Sale for obvious reasons?

Losing Sale, Price and Betts in the same offseason, after all, would have made the 2020 season an awfully hard sell.

Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox exits the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning at Fenway Park on July 13, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox exits the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning at Fenway Park on July 13, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

Regardless, if and when Sale ultimately has Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox will now lose him for two seasons instead of one. Having the surgery last fall would have had him ready for the 2021 season. The only benefit now is that, if necessary, the Red Sox can wait all season now before Sale undergoes surgery. Full recovery from Tommy John requires about 18 months, which the Sox now have a little to kill.

Or, more specifically, pray.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.