It appears Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale could return to the mound in the near future.
Sale, who has yet to pitch this season because of a rib injury, is set begin his rehab assignment on Monday in the Florida Complex League, the Red Sox revealed Friday, according to Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe.
From there, the 33-year-old would play two games with Boston’s Double-A affiliate Portland Sea Dogs and two games with the franchise’s Triple-A affiliate Worcester Red Sox. Abraham notes he could return to the majors around July 16.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora told NESN’s Tom Caron the plan is for Sale to begin his rehab assignment by pitching two innings on Saturday and that he’ll need to toss five innings before starting a game in the majors.
There has been some speculation that Sale could return to the Red Sox lineup as a reliever, but Cora shot down the notion on Friday, telling Caron that the southpaw will return to the starting rotation.
That said, Sale told reporters Tuesday that he would be willing to return from his injury as a reliever if asked, saying, “I think, at this point, nothing really matters other than getting back out there.”
Sale opened the 2022 season on the 60-day injured list after suffering a stress fracture in his rib cage during a live batting practice he was throwing at Florida Gulf Coast University during the offseason. He then had to take care of a personal medical issue, which set him back 10 days.
It was an unfortunate ailment for Sale, who has been hampered by injuries over the last several seasons.
The seven-time All-Star hasn’t appeared in more than 30 games since the 2017 season and didn’t pitch at all during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign after having Tommy John surgery.
Sale returned for the 2021 season in August and started nine games, going 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 52 strikeouts across 42.2 innings. His impending return will be a welcome sight for Boston, though the team’s starting rotation has done well without him.
Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Garrett Whitlock have held down Boston’s rotation this season. James Paxton, Tanner Houck and Kutter Crawford have also made starts for the team.
Boston’s starting rotation has posted a 3.46 ERA this season, sixth-best in the majors. Adding Sale to the mix should only improve that number.
Despite the team’s rotation pitching well, the Red Sox entered Friday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 34-30 record, fourth in the AL East and 13.5 games behind the first place New York Yankees.