Red Sox ace Chris Sale completed his third rehab start and his second for Double-A Portland at a sold-out Hadlock Field on Sunday afternoon.
Matched up against the Harrisburg Senators — the same team he faced on Tuesday — Sale yielded two earned runs on six hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with nine strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work for the Sea Dogs.
The veteran left-hander was slated to pitch four or five frames depending on his pitch count, but a laborious third inning that required 28 pitches ultimately cut his day short.
After maneuvering his way around a two-out double in an otherwise clean first inning and striking out the side while stranding a runner in the second, Sale ran into a bit of trouble in the top half of the third.
There, he served up a leadoff home run to the Senators’ No. 9 hitter in Osvaldo Duarte before giving up a double and bunt single. Two straight punchouts brought the lefty to within one out of escaping the jam, but he plunked a batter to load the bases.
With two outs and the bases full in the third, Sale fanned Jackson Cluff on a swing-inducing slider to get out of the inning and then recorded the first two outs of the fourth before a two-out double marked the unofficial end of his outing.
In relief of Sale, Sea Dogs reliever Dominic LaBrutto allowed the lone runner he inherited to score on an RBI single, thus officially closing the book on Sale’s afternoon.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 64 (46 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler wound up retiring 11 of the 18 hitters he faced, as he hovered around 94-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and topped out at 96 mph with it while mixing in his slider and changeup as well.
For Sale, Sunday’s performance marked yet another milestone on his road back from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent nearly 16 months ago on March 30, 2020 — his 31st birthday.
In the time since undergoing that procedure to repair his UCL last spring, the 6-foot-6 southpaw has now made three rehab starts between the Florida Complex League Red Sox and Sea Dogs dating back to July 15. He has seen his pitch count rise from 39 to 49 to 64 in each of those outings.
Assuming he wakes up without issue Monday morning, Sale will be in line to make his next rehab start for Triple-A Worcester next Saturday, July 31, as the WooSox will be taking on the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park.
There is a slight chance that could be Sale’s last minor-league start before he re-joins Boston’s major-league rotation, though Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush recently told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that the club wants the seven-time All-Star to be at a point where he contribute five to six innings on 80 or so pitches every five days prior to him being activated off the injured list.
(Picture of Chris Sale: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)