Opening Day, March 30th. Chris Sale’s birthday. And Corey Kluber will be on the bump as the Red Sox start the 2023 season.
Alex Cora broke the news on Sunday that Sale wasn’t getting the Opening Day nod, sending fragments of the fan base into a frenzy as they got the chance to dig in on their favorite punching bag. Was he hurt again? No, this had simply been Cora’s plan dating back to January.
Since the start of spring training, Cora has made it clear that Sale isn’t responsible for carrying the team on his shoulders. No expectations. Just get back to being a guy who goes out there every five days and gives his team a chance to win.
It’s understandable. We’ve seen the pressure Sale has put on himself the last few years while trying to live up to the 5-year, $145 MM extension he signed before the start of the 2019 season. He pushed himself so hard last winter it led to a stress fracture in his right rib cage.
At this point, it’s fair to question that vintage Chris Sale might be gone. Even after tossing 5 scoreless innings with 7 strikeouts and 0 walks in the last few weeks. But the Red Sox aren’t asking for that level of production out of him, they need stability in a rotation full of question marks.
Sale hasn’t been healthy for 3 straight Opening Days. So far this spring, we’ve seen emotions pour out of him during live bullpens and after his first Grapefruit League start. It’ll be on a whole different level when he takes the mound on April 1st (currently lined up for 3/31 but it’s an off-day), so taking his birthday out of the equation and all the hoopla of Opening Day feels smart.
Since debuting in 2010, Sale has been one of the most emotional and vocal pitchers in the sport. Go back to 2021, where he somehow found 98 MPH in his back pocket to escape a jam in Game 5 of the ALCS after flashing diminished stuff down the stretch. Followed up by a primal scream that had Fenway Park buzzing.