Red Sox fans rejoice — Chris Sale has made his triumphant return to the mound. The powerful left-hander made his long-awaited 2022 debut for Boston on Tuesday night, and he wasted no time proving that he was back in fine form.
After spending months on the injured list recovering from a stress fracture in his right rib cage, Sale’s return to the Red Sox was enthusiastically welcomed by fans and teammates. With almost half the season now in the rearview mirror, Boston needs him to be the solid and reliable starter he was before his injuries. The team is sitting in third place in the AL East baseball standings, with World Series odds of +3000. A postseason berth via the Wild Card is well within reach — but now certainly isn’t the time to be resting on laurels.
On Tuesday night, Sale’s performance on the bump wasn’t enough to stop the Tampa Bay Rays from winning the game 3-2. However, his return might be a step in the right direction, but can he be the game-changer that Boston needs?
We've missed seeing Chris Sale's slider so much. pic.twitter.com/tMYskoLL9l
— Red Sox (@RedSox) July 13, 2022
Rest, Rehab, Relaxation
Sale has had a rough couple of seasons. He underwent Tommy John surgery in late March 2020 and wasn’t re-added to Boston’s active roster until August 14, 2021. Just 12 days after returning to the mound, Sale threw the third immaculate inning of his career against the Minnesota Twins. Although he clearly wasn’t yet back to his former glory, hopes were high for a full comeback season in 2022.
Well, as they say, man plans and God laughs.
In February, Sale sustained a stress fracture in his right rib cage while throwing batting practice. He began his rehab assignment in Double-A in June, but Sale didn’t stay out of the news for long despite being in the minor leagues for a hot minute.
On July 6, he made headlines when he was filmed destroying his team’s dugout during a rehab start with Triple-A Worcester. He had allowed three hits and five walks during his start, including a walk with bases loaded that led to him getting pulled after only 3 2/3 innings, and apparently, he wasn’t happy about it.
VIDEO: #RedSox pitcher Chris Sale upset after giving up a bases loaded walk & being taken out after 3 & 2/3 innings in a rehab start for the @WooSox (📸: @bri4homes) @NBC10Boston @NECN pic.twitter.com/1j1ga5kJaT
— Alysha Palumbo NBC10 Boston (@AlyshaNBCBoston) July 7, 2022
After the footage of Sale’s temper tantrum spread online, questions were raised regarding whether the Red Sox should delay his return to the team. He has always been a rather eccentric fellow — remember the infamous jersey-cutting incident when he played for the White Sox? — but anger issues and property damage, even if it’s all in the name of passion and competitiveness, probably aren’t really the vibe that Boston is going for.
Sale apologized for his behavior (sort of) the following day, admitting he “acted like an idiot,” before promptly following it up with, “It is what it is, it’s who I am. It’s what makes me a big leaguer, what makes me good at my job. Might not be the best for the public eye, but what is? Who’s perfect? Name him. I’d love to shake his hand.”
What a role model.
Regardless, Sale vowed to replace the television he smashed, and the issue seemed to predominately just be an embarrassing hissy fit. Red Sox fans were definitely ready to move on — they wanted their ace back.
On Tuesday, the Red Sox reinstated Sale from the 60-day IL in preparation for his start that night, and once he was out on the hill, it was like he never left. In 78 pitches in five innings, Sale allowed no runs and just three hits while striking out five. He averaged 95.1 mph and topped out at 96.9 mph.
It’s official — Chris Sale is back with a vengeance.
Five shutout frames for Chris Sale in his return. pic.twitter.com/KXuyu4Gc6W
— MLB (@MLB) July 13, 2022
Despite his near-perfect season debut, Tampa Bay won the game 3-2 after the Red Sox made two errors on the same play in the sixth inning. When asked about his long-awaited return, Sale commented, “Step in the right direction. Command was spotty at times, but when I really had to bear down and get it, I felt like I was able to. I wish it ended up a bit different. But that’s part of it.”
With his return on Tuesday night, the Red Sox will be able to start Sale again on Sunday in their last game before the All-Star Break. Whether the team keeps him as a starter or moves him to the bullpen, it’s clear he’s ready to get back out there and help his team into the postseason. Will he be the ace they need? Only time will tell.
Just maybe don’t leave him alone with your dugout TV.
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