Chris Sale’s visit with Dr. James Andrews on Monday didn’t reveal any ligament damage in the star left-hander’s throwing elbow, Sale told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) yesterday. For now, Sale will continue to rest following a platelet-rich plasma injection shot, and he’ll be re-evaluated in six weeks.
While any visit to Dr. Andrews is usually considered as an ominous sign by fans and pundits (and as a harbinger of possible Tommy John surgery), Sale described his diagnosis as “not great news, but about as good as we could get. We rest, I think maybe four to six weeks, get on a throwing program and get back to it.”
With the Red Sox sitting six games out of a wild card slot, postseason availability may be a moot point for the entire roster, though Sale in particular seems like a longshot for the playoff roster even if Boston does make a miracle run over the season’s final six weeks. It was already known that the PRP shot’s six-week recovery period would cost Sale the remainder of the regular season, and Sox manager Alex Cora told media that it would “probably…be almost impossible” for Sale to be ready to contribute in October.
This will mark the second straight year that Sale has been limited by a late-season injury, as shoulder issues limited him to just 17 innings from July 28, 2018 until the end of the 2018 regular season. It’s possible Sale could have pitched more if the Sox were in a pennant race rather than comfortably coasting to an AL East title, though even while cautiously deploying Sale during the playoff run, the lefty posted an uncharacteristically middling 4.11 ERA over 15 1/3 postseason innings.
All these injury questions loom large given that Sale’s five-year, $145MM extension with the team doesn’t begin until the start of the 2020 season. Sale fully expects to be ready for the start of the next season, though between Sale, David Price and Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox have $79MM in 2020 salary committed to three starters with checkered health histories.
Sale has a career-worst 4.40 ERA over 147 1/3 innings, though that ERA has largely been boosted by a career-high 19.5% home run rate. ERA predictors such as FIP (3.39), xFIP (2.94) and SIERA (3.00) paint a much more forgiving picture of the southpaw’s performance in 2019. His 13.32 K/9 is still elite, and Sale’s .283 xwOBA is in the 81st percentile of all pitchers. That said, Sale also has a 36% hard-hit ball rate, by far the highest of his career.