Monday, September 25

Chris Sale update: Red Sox hope to have lefty back ‘sooner rather than later’

Chris Sale’s return is getting closer.

As the calendar turns to June, the Red Sox left-hander is making his trek towards coming back, potentially later in the month. On Monday in Fort Myers, Sale threw a bullpen that manager Alex Cora described as “really good,” and he’s expected to throw at least two more – Thursday and next Monday – before a potential rehab assignment.

Cora said the team hasn’t nailed down specifics, but that the goal is for Sale to throw to live hitters and pitch in a simulated game before he makes a rehab assignment with one of the Red Sox’ minor league affiliates.

“We haven’t gotten to that step,” Cora said. “Obviously the live BP and the sim games are part of the equation.”

Cora has been in communication with Sale and said the lefty is in good spirits, especially compared to about a month ago when he had to be shut down briefly due to an undisclosed personal medical issue. Sale has been working his way back from a stress fracture in his right rib cage that he suffered in March.

“Excited,” Cora said of how Sale is feeling. “A lot different than a month ago with his situation and being able to be on the mound. Talking to (Latin American pitching and rehab coordinator) Walter Miranda, who is in charge of the whole process down there, body language-wise and the things he’s doing for the kids down there, you can tell he’s in a great spot. …

“He’s in a lot better spot health-wise and obviously as a baseball player. Hopefully from now on, there’s no obstacles and we can get him sooner rather than later.”

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Sale was put on the 60-day injured list in early April. which would have made him eligible to return in early June, but his medical setback pushed his return timetable back at least a few weeks.

Sticking with Barnes

The Red Sox aren’t giving up on Matt Barnes.

The veteran reliever continued his wild fall in Monday’s loss to the Orioles, when he gave up a three-run homer to Anthony Santander in the ninth. Even the outs he produced were hard-hit as every ball put in play against him had an exit velocity of 95.9 mph or higher.

Barnes now owns a 7.94 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 17 innings pitched this season. Cora admitted it’s hard to keep putting him in games while he struggles like this, but they don’t have much of a choice. He can’t be optioned to the minors, and the Red Sox committed to him with a contract extension last July when he was in his All-Star form. They continue to hope he can regain some semblance of that.

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes walks off the mound as Los Angeles Angels' Taylor Ward runs the bases on a two-run home run during the 10th inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 4, 2022, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes walks off the mound as Los Angeles Angels’ Taylor Ward runs the bases on a two-run home run during the 10th inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 4, 2022, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

“It’s hard at this level,” Cora said. “We have to do it. We have to keep pitching him and hopefully at one point, the work he’s put in before games and after games and watching video and talking to (Dave Bush) and (Kevin Walker) and everybody that is involved, it clicks. …

“There’s a few times that we’ve been close, others not as close, but he’s a guy that we’re not going to give up. We have to keep working with him. Obviously he’s been punched in the stomach a few times, and it’s been tough. But today he’s here, he’s working and obviously he’ll be down today, but hopefully when he comes back the next time, he can dominate. That’s the goal.”

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Cora said they’re trying to pick up Barnes by talking to him and trying to stay positive as he works on figuring it out.

“I know it’s a result-oriented league, everybody knows it, but at the same time, it’s a process to get there and we’re not going to deviate from the process,” Cora said. “It’s been hard to watch, because this guy, even before last year, he was really good for us. We still trust him. We made a commitment with him last year. …

“I still believe last year was more about COVID in the second part of the season than anything else. I know he hit that wall and then he had COVID and we weren’t able to get him to the point that he could pitch in the playoffs. But he’s a lot better than this and he’ll be the first one to admit it.”

Odds & ends

Matt Strahm, who was placed on the COVID-related injured list on Monday, was not reinstated before first pitch, but the reliever was present in the Red Sox clubhouse during media access. Cora said after Tuesday’s game that they couldn’t clear him before, but he should be back on Wednesday. …

Brandon Walter, the sixth-ranked Red Sox prospect by Baseball America, was officially promoted to Triple-A Worcester, and is set to make his WooSox debut on Thursday. He was dominant in Double-A, with 68 strikeouts to three walks and a 2.88 ERA in nine starts. … The Reds are in town for their first series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park since 2014. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. were both rookies.

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