The Red Sox have reinstated left-hander Chris Sale from the 60-day injured list. In order to make room for Sale on the major-league roster, right-hander Brayan Bello was optioned to Triple-A Worcester, the club announced Tuesday.
Sale will make his highly-anticipated 2022 debut against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night. The 33-year-old southpaw missed the first three months of the season due to a right rib cage stress fracture he sustained while throwing live batting practice back in February. His recovery from that was slowed for a period of time in May because of a non-baseball medical issue.
After resuming his throwing program, Sale was sent out on a rehab assignment in late June. He made two starts in the Florida Complex League, one start for Double-A Portland, and one start for Triple-A Worcester.
In that outing for the WooSox against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Polar Park last Wednesday, Sale allowed one run on three hits, five walks, and five strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work. He threw 72 pitches (42 strikes) during that stretch while mixing in a high-90s fastball, a mid-80s changeup, and a high-70s slider.
As Alex Cora and the Red Sox look to bounce back against the Rays on Tuesday, they are hoping to get about 85 pitches out of Sale, who will be working on an extra day of rest and is also in line to start Boston’s first-half finale in the Bronx on Sunday.
“I believe we can be more aggressive now compared to last year,” Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) on Monday. “Obviously, tomorrow, probably 85 pitches. But I think we’ll be more aggressive. The fact we’re thinking about pitching him Sunday tells you a lot.”
Sale, of course, missed all of 2020 and the first four months of 2021 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. When the lefty returned to the mound last year, he was still building back up his arm strength.
This time around, however, the Red Sox seem optimistic that Sale will be able to fire on all cylinders since he is not working his way back from a major arm surgery. It also helps that the Lakeland, Fla. native will be pitching close to home.
Bello, meanwhile, returns to Worcester after making the first two starts of his big-league career against the same opponent in the Rays. Neither of those outings went particularly well, as the 23-year-old rookie surrendered nine earned runs on 13 hits, six walks, and seven strikeouts across eight combined innings.
Still, Bello showed at times why he is regarded by many as the most exciting pitching prospect the Red Sox have had in years. The Dominican-born righty will take what he learned from his first taste of the majors back to Worcester, where he owns a 2.81 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) for the WooSox.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of growing, a lot of learning,” Cora said of Bello Monday night. “Tonight was a great learning experience for him. We were very pleased with the last two innings. He gave us a chance to win the game.”
By activating and Sale and optioning Bello, the Red Sox now have a full active and 40-man roster. Boston did not need to create a spot on its 40-man roster for Sale after placing backup catcher Kevin Plawecki on the COVID-19 related injured list on Monday.
Once Plawecki is ready to return, the Sox will need to take someone else off the 40-man roster since players on the COVID-related IL do not count against it.
(Picture of Chris Sale: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)