Posted on August 17, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
It might be about time to stick a fork in the Boston Red Sox. The reigning World Series champs already have slim hopes of a repeat, beginning Saturday 6.5 games out of a playoff spot. Those hopes grew even more bleak on Saturday when the club placed ace Chris Sale on the 10-day Injured List amidst complaints of stiffness in his elbow. The team is seeking a second opinion but is no doubt holding their breath as they wait for a conclusive diagnosis.
Sale last pitched on Tuesday, allowing five runs over 6.2 innings against the Indians. He felt stiffness in his elbow on Wednesday and Thursday and finally told the team’s training staff about the issue on Friday. An MRI revealed inflammation and prompted a trip to the IL. However, Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski told the media Saturday that the injury is “brand new,” unrelated to any minor elbow issues Sale has had in the past. Dombrowski also said Sale will get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, indicating the issue is potentially serious.
“They told me after the game last night he had some stiffness,” Dombrowski said Saturday. “At that point we said, ‘Okay, let’s make sure we get this checked out.'”
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The Red Sox have no timetable for when Sale will be able to pitch again. It would seem that all possibilities are on the table. Even if the issue turns out to be minor, the Red Sox may consider cutting their losses and sitting him down for the rest of the season. Even if his absence his brief, it could be too late to make a difference with regard to Boston making the playoffs.
Even before the elbow issue popped up, Sale was not having a good season, at least by his standards. He’s just 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts. Barring a miracle, Sale will finish the 2019 season with the highest ERA of his career in what has been a forgettable year for both him and the Red Sox. Obviously, the Red Sox would love to have him in case they have a late run in them. But Sale has a 5.36 ERA since the all-star break, so it’s debatable whether or not he would help Boston’s cause at this point.
Of course, Sale going to the IL is just the latest issue with Boston’s rotation this year. David Price is currently on the IL because of a wrist problem. Nathan Eovaldi returned from a three-month stint on the IL as a member of the Red Sox bullpen but may be forced back to the rotation. Finally, Andrew Cashner has been so ineffective since being traded to Boston last month that he was recently moved to the bullpen.
With Sale joining Price on the IL, the Red Sox are down to three members in their rotation, including swingman Brian Johnson. It appears inevitable that Eovaldi and possibly Cashner will be moved back to the rotation until either Price or Sale returns. Considering their makeshift rotation, it seems unlikely the Red Sox will be able to make a playoff push over the final six weeks of the season, whether or not Sale returns quickly.
That being said, Sale’s elbow issues are a long-term concern for the Red Sox. The 30-year-old lefty is signed through at least the 2024 season, and his salary is about to jump from $13.5 million this year to $30 million in each of the next three seasons. If his elbow inflammation turns out to be anything serious, it could hinder the Red Sox not only the rest of 2019, but in 2020 and beyond as well.