Almost two years to the day since he last pitched in an MLB game, Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will be activated from the injured list. Sale will return to the Boston rotation to face the Orioles at home on Saturday, Aug. 14, manager Alex Cora announced on Sunday.
Sale was lost to elbow issues in August of 2019. Initially, he attempted to rehab through the injury, but he wound up undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of last year. After that, the Red Sox took a methodical approach to his recovery from the procedure. Sale not long ago began a minor league rehab assignment, and the results were quite promising:
Chris Sale’s 5 rehab starts:— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) August 8, 2021
20.0 IP, 1.35 ERA, 35 K, 5 BB
Pitch counts: 39, 43, 64, 81, 89
Sale, now 32 years of age, has pitched to a 3.08 ERA and 6.69 K/BB ratio in parts of three seasons with Boston. For his 10-year career, he owns an ERA+ of 140 and a WAR of 45.6. He's also the active career leader in strikeout rate and K/BB ratio.
The assumption is that Sale, who's signed through at least 2024, is still capable of pitching an ace or near-ace level, and that's precisely what Boston needs as they attempt to cling to playoff position in the American League. Right now, the Red Sox rank a middling eighth in the AL in rotation ERA and 13th in rotation WHIP. Recently Cora decided to remove the struggling Martín Pérez from the rotation and install him in the bullpen.
While pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery can often struggle with command in the early going, Sale has taken a more deliberate path back to the active roster and, as seen above, looked in vintage form while on rehab assignment. The front office did nothing to address the rotation leading up to the July 30 trade deadline, so the organization has much riding on Sale's ability to resume vintage form in short order.
Entering play Sunday, the Red Sox are 2-5 in August and 10-12 since the break. Within that span, they ceded first place in the AL East to the Rays.