Red Sox manager Alex Cora had said on Saturday that the team was not considering moving Chris Sale to the bullpen on a full-time basis “for health reasons.”
Less than 24 hours later, and those plans have since changed, as Sale will be available out of the Sox bullpen for Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon.
Per Cora, Sale is on board with the decision, though it is unclear if his transition to a reliever will last beyond Sunday since Cora “wouldn’t say if Sale would or would not be considered as a starter moving forward.”
The decision to move Sale to the bullpen for the time being likely comes as a result of the left-hander’s performance on the mound as of late.
Upon making his highly-anticipated return from Tommy John surgery in mid-August, Sale put up a respectable 2.52 ERA and 3.93 FIP to go along with 30 strikeouts to six walks over five starts spanning 25 innings of work.
Since testing positive for COVID-19 and returning from the COVID-related injured list on September 17, though, Sale has seemingly been less effective — with his two most-recent starts sticking out in that regard.
In last Sunday’s regular season finale against the Nationals, the 32-year-old southpaw lasted 2 1/3 innings while allowing two runs on four hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts on 62 pitches (37 strikes) at Nationals Park.
In Game 2 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field on Friday, Sale got rocked for five runs (all earned) on four hits, one walk, and two strikeouts before getting pulled after just one inning.
Needless to say, whether it be that his changeup had an expected batting average against of .332 or that right-handed hitters slashed .291/.363/.461 off him in the regular season, Sale certainly has some things to work on with very little time to waste.
Sale, as well as fellow lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and right-handers Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck, will all be available out of the Red Sox bullpen behind Game 3 starter Nathan Eovaldi.
Boston will look to go up two games to one in this best-of-five ALDS with Tampa Bay, as first pitch Sunday is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network.
(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)