FORT MYERS, Fla. – Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale has a flexor strain near his left elbow and will not be scheduled for Tommy John surgery — for now.
The 30-year-old left-hander felt discomfort in his pitching elbow Monday, a day after throwing his first batting practice of spring training. He had an MRI that was reviewed by team physicians and Drs. James Andrews and Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Sale's ulnar collateral ligament, which was treated with a platelet-rich plasma injection last Aug. 19, did not sustain additional damage.
"That's what we're hoping for," Sale said. “There's optimism to be had, and I'm thankful for that. But I know the situation we're in right now and it's not fun. ... This is about as tough situation as I've ever been in. ”
Sale is 109-73 in 10 major league seasons is entering the second season of a $160 million, six-year contract. After helping the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series, he went 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts last year, his fewest wins and starts and highest ERA in a full season since 2012.
“Over the last year and up to this point, I've done nothing but fall flat on my face,” Sale said. “So it's a gut punch. It's a tough realization, but I've said it time and time again, I have no time to hang my head or sit in a corner and pout. I've got work to do and I've got an uphill battle to climb, but I got my climbing shoes on.”
Sale's 2019 season was cut short after he gave up five runs over 6 2/3 innings in a win at Cleveland on Aug. 13.
"The UCL looks the same as it did the last image," Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. "But the doctors do know that there is some correlation with the flexor and the UCL, and so what we're going to do with Chris is they've advised him to wait another week. So, we'll wait another week before he starts throwing again. He'll start out basically playing catch again. If everything's good, we progress to the bullpens. If everything's good there, we progress to the live BPs again, and then see where we're at.”
Sale already had been slated to start the season on the injured list after reporting to camp with pneumonia, setting him behind schedule.
“Tommy John's been a factor in my life for 20 years now," Sale said. “So, obviously, with these things happening it's on the table, but it's always been on the table. So, that's not something I'm going to worry myself with. I can't go out there with that in the back of my mind. I have to have the confidence that what we're doing is going to work. and the work that I'm going to put in, the effort level that I'm going to do this rehab with and this throwing program with is going to work. I'm not going to sit here and think negative thoughts. I've got the best people around me to get me through this process."