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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
1 Apr 2023
Gabrielle Starr

NextImg:Chris Sale’s first Fenway start since 2021 ALCS is worth savoring

It’s been 528 days since Chris Sale last pitched in a home game.

Game 5 of the 2021 ALCS.

Since the 2021 postseason, Sale has suffered a rib stress fracture, fractured a pinky in the second game back (off a line-drive comebacker), and broken his wrist in a bicycle accident while recovering from the pinky injury. The Florida native also weathered one of the worst hurricanes in global history last September.

The seemingly endless parade of afflictions over the last 17 months has been so relentless that last summer, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom wondered if someone had a voodoo doll of the pitcher.

Charlie Brown standing on the mound under his own personal storm cloud is another apt comparison.

So, who is Chris Sale now?

He’s no longer the 29-year-old with a seven-year All-Star streak who brought Manny Machado to his knees to clinch the organization’s fourth championship of the century.

Maybe he will be again, but at this point, having a healthy spring training and being ready for the start of the season (for the first time since 2019) is considered a significant achievement.

Happy Sale Day.

Sale turned 34 on Opening Day, though he’s taken to joking (or maybe, trying to manifest) that his arm is about three years behind in the aging process.

In a not-exactly-scientific-but-still-weirdly-logical way, he might prove to be right? After all, even though his body is technically several years older, that left arm is missing quite a bit of the mileage it would’ve had if he’d been healthy.

Of course, the flip side of his mileage postulation is stamina, or lack thereof. Between 2012-19, Sale averaged 192 regular-season innings per year (173/year over his first three seasons in Boston), then missed all of 2020 and most of 2021, recovering from Tommy John surgery. Since his first game back in August 2021, he’s thrown a grand total of 48 ⅓ regular-season innings.

The Red Sox will have to proceed with extreme caution when it comes to trying to get him through even a full month, let alone the whole season.

Still, hope springs eternal. Red Sox fans showed up for 86 long years, and pitchers far older than Sale have dominated the game for over a century.

Jack Quinn pitched until he was 50, including in the 1929 and 1930 World Series when he was 46 and 47 years old.

Nolan Ryan’s seven career no-hitters are the most in MLB history; he was 44 when he threw the last one in 1991.

Randy Johnson at 38 pitched a shutout in the 2001 World Series; 39-year-old Tim Hudson became the oldest pitcher to start a World Series Game 7, in 2014.

In 2012, two years after Tommy John surgery, 49-year-old Jamie Moyer set a new record for oldest MLB pitcher to earn a win.

Satchel Paige briefly came out of retirement and pitched three shutout innings against the 1965 Red Sox; he was a spry 59.

40-year-old Justin Verlander is the reigning American League Cy Young winner, and he’s not even the oldest guy to win the award. That would be Roger Clemens, who took home his seventh and final plaque in 2004, when he was 42.

In sum, if Sale can stay healthy, he has time to reroute his career, to strike fear into the hearts of batters again.

For now, take a minute to savor the moment and the possibility hovering over Fenway on this overcast afternoon.

Chris Sale is going to take the mound and throw baseballs in Boston.

The tarp is off the diamond, the fog has lifted around the city, and sunshine is supposed to break through the clouds within the first hour of the game.

Maybe this is the day Sale’s storm clouds start to lift, too.