Red Sox ace Chris Sale has a stress fracture in his right rib cage and will not be ready for Opening Day, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced to reporters today (Twitter links via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe). It will be “weeks, not days” before Sale is even cleared to pick up a ball and begin any form of throwing, Bloom adds. Sale didn’t suggest a timeline other than stating that bones typically take six to eight weeks to heal. Sale suffered the injury during the lockout during a live batting practice he was streaming on Instagram, but was prohibited from communicating it to the Red Sox until the new collective bargaining agreement was reached March 10.
Sale joined the Red Sox in a December 2016 trade and is in the third year of a five-year, $145MM extension. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020, ultimately leading to a gap of almost exactly two years between MLB mound appearances. In his nine starts in late 2021, Sale averaged 82 pitches per outing. Sale’s work fell short of his Cy Young-caliber peak, which is to be expected at age 32 and after a long layoff, but he still managed a healthy 28.4 K% and 6.6 BB% in his 42 1/3 innings. Two of Sale’s three postseason starts were particularly brief, but he was able to make a strong 87-pitch effort in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Astros.
The prospect of Sale missing potentially a couple months of the 2022 season is a blow to the Red Sox. Still, the club did sign free agents Michael Wacha and Rich Hill before the lockout, and has already been stretching out Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock this spring. Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta are also set for the team’s rotation.