The Red Sox announced that they have reinstated left-hander Chris Sale from the 60-day injured list, with fellow lefty Brandon Walter optioned in a corresponding move. The 40-man roster previously had a vacancy but is now full. Chris Cotillo of MassLive reported the moves prior to the official announcement. Sale will start tonight’s game against the Tigers.
Sale, 34, was once one of the best pitchers in the majors but his health has been the primary focus in recent years. He required Tommy John surgery in 2020, wiping out that season and most of 2021 as well. In 2022, a stress reaction in his ribs kept him out until July. He returned but fractured a finger when he was struck by a comebacker. While on the injured list for that ailment, he broke his wrist in a bicycle accident.
Here in 2023, it was relatively smooth sailing for a while. He tossed 59 innings over 11 starts, allowing 4.58 earned runs per nine innings but he probably deserved better. He struck out 28.5% of batters faced and walked 6%, but his .315 batting average on balls in play and 69.4% strand rate were both a bit on the unlucky side. Metrics like his 3.69 FIP and 3.47 SIERA painted a rosier picture of his season than his ERA.
In early June, he was placed on the 15-day injured list due to shoulder inflammation, though he was later moved to the 60-day IL with his condition described as a stress reaction in his shoulder blade. That has kept him out of action until now, just a bit beyond the 60-day minimum.
What the Sox will get from Sale at this point remains to be seen. His results earlier in the year were decent, but he’s already pitched more innings than in any season since 2019. Perhaps he will run into workload concerns, though his rotation mate James Paxton shows that’s not necessarily the case. The latter has thrown 80 1/3 innings this year with a 3.36 ERA after missing almost all of the previous three campaigns. Sale has one more guaranteed year remaining on his extension with a $27.5MM salary for 2024 and a $20MM club/vesting option for 2025.
Sale and Paxton figure to hold down two rotation spots for now, with Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta and Kutter Crawford in the other three. Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck are both on rehab assignments right now and could factor into that mix soon, though manager Alex Cora recently said there’s “a good chance” Whitlock will be used as a multi-inning reliever upon his return.