Red Sox’ Chris Sale Dealing With Left Elbow Soreness

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale is dealing with soreness in his left elbow, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Per Roenicke, Sale first experienced the soreness on Monday, one day after facing live hitters for the first time since last August. He has since been sent for an MRI and the Red Sox are awaiting the results from Dr. James Andrews.

Sale, who turns 31 later this month, was already expected to begin the 2020 season on the injured list due to an earlier bout with pneumonia that would have delayed his spring preparations, but this recent news adds another layer of concern.

In that live batting practice session on a Fenway South backfield on Sunday, Sale threw 15 pitches while utilizing his entire pitch mix, and did not feel any pain in his arm upon the session’s completion.

Heading into what is now the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with Boston last March, Sale’s left elbow has received plenty of attention over the past 12 months.

The Florida native was shut down by the Sox due to inflammation in that same elbow last August, and he received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection from Dr. Andrews later that same month.

He was eventually cleared to resume throwing right around Thanksgiving, though, and up until Tuesday morning, any developments related to his left arm seemed to be positive and encouraging.

With the results of the MRI yet to be revealed, it’s unclear on where things will go from here. Worst-case scenario is most likely season-ending surgery, but we really don’t know anything yet.

What we do know is that a Red Sox starting rotation that already faced plenty of skepticism will face even more if Sale is indeed sidelined for an even longer period of time than initially anticipated.

 

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Collin McHugh

It’s pretty late to do being one of these with spring training well underway and less than a month ago until Opening Day, but with the news that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting pitching help.

With the news of Sale starting the year on the shelf, in addition to trading David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the month, the Sox’ starting rotation only has three established starting pitchers at the moment in Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

Guys like Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez could fill in in either the No. 4 or No. 5 spots, and it also appears likely that an opener or two could be used, but that shouldn’t stop chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from looking at external options as well.

Obviously, with it being the last day of February and all, the free-agent market has essentially been thinned out, but there is still one intriguing name out there in former Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the 32-year-old has “recently been given the go-ahead to begin throwing after a [non-surgical] tenex procedure alleviated an elbow concern” and “nearly every team has checked in” on him thanks to his versatility.

Appearing in 35 games, eight of which were starts, for Houston last year, McHugh posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 74 2/3 total innings of work while dealing with ongoing right elbow discomfort.

His days of pitching anywhere between 150 to 200 innings in a season are probably behind him and he likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2020 season if he were to sign soon, but there are still plenty of things working in McHugh’s favor.

First off, there’s the versatility piece I mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s just me, but I could see McHugh starting, serving as an opener, or working in relief once he gets up to speed with whatever club he signs with this year.

Second, he probably won’t be demanding much as a free agent. A one-year deal for cheap or even a minor-league deal could get it done. That way, if things didn’t work out, it would not be all that costly to cut ties.

Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox now have a little more than $13 million in payroll flexibility to work with before reaching that $208 million luxury tax threshold they got under by dealing Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles.

McHugh would surely not command more than 25% of that $13 million as a free agent, so the rewards in this case would far outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

Outside of McHugh, free agent starting pitchers who remain unsigned include old friends Clay Buccholz and Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Clayton Richard, and Marco Estrada.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale to Start 2020 Season on Injured List

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, interim manager Ron Roenicke announced Thursday.

Sale had been recovering from a bout with pneumonia as camp broke earlier in the month, which set him back about two weeks in his preparations for the 2020 season. Because of that setback, it had already been determined that the 30-year-old would be unable to get the six spring starts the Red Sox wanted him to make before Opening Day.

Roenicke did say that the reason for Sale’s soon-to-be IL stint is completely pneumonia-related, and has nothing to do with the build-up of his arm, which is going “great.”

According to The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, Sale has “been throwing bullpens and has progressed to simulated games with a chance of appearing in his first game next week.”

Entering his fourth season with Boston, Sale is coming off an injury-shortened 2019 campaign where he made just 25 starts and threw 147 1/3 innings, the lowest totals of his career since he became a starter in 2012.

The Red Sox shut the lefty down in August due to inflammation in his left elbow, and he received a PRP injection from Dr. James Andrews that same month.

Another visit with Dr. Andrews in November resulted in Sale being cleared to throw with an eye towards spring training, so in terms of where he is at with his arm, everything appears fine.

Sale is set to earn $30 million in the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with the Sox last march.

As MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, “IL stints for pitchers will increase from 10 days to 15 days this season.” Meaning that Sale will likely remain sidelined for the first two weeks of the 2020 campaign.

Sale’s absence to begin things means the Red Sox now have three viable starters — Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez — in their rotation.

Right-hander Ryan Weber looks like an early favorite to take David Price’s spot, but who the Sox turn to to fill in for Sale will be interesting to see.

 

Predicting the Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster

One month from Wednesday, the Red Sox will open their 2020 season with the first of four against the Toronto Blue Jays north of border. As things stand right now, a solid portion of the club’s 26-man Opening Day roster is set, but with questions surrounding injuries and depth aplenty, there could still be a handful of spots up for grabs.

With that, I thought it would be a good time to take a crack at what the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster could look like this time next month. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Starting Rotation:

Eduardo Rodriguez
Nathan Eovaldi
Martin Perez
Ryan Weber
Kyle Hart

According to interim manager Ron Roenicke, left-hander Chris Sale might need to throw two live batting practice sessions before throwing in an actual game, leaving the 30-year-old’s status for Opening Day up in the air since he wouldn’t have a ton of time to ramp up his workload.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Sale, that leaves two spots in Boston’s rotation up for grabs. Right-hander Ryan Weber seems like a likely candidate, and I went with left-hander Kyle Hart over pitching prospect Tanner Houck for the fifth spot.

Hart, 27, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November, while Houck, who is not on the 40-man roster, could use more time to develop as a starter in Triple-A.

Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson have prior experience starting for the Red Sox, although Johnson would need to be added back to the 40-man roster after being outrighted in November.

The Bullpen:

Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Brandon Workman
Darwinzon Hernandez
Josh Taylor
Heath Hembree
Marcus Walden
Austin Brice

As far as I am concerned, Barnes, Workman, Hernandez, Taylor, Hembree, and Walden are all locks to make the Opening Day roster.

Brasier struggled at times last year and has minor-league options remaining, while Brice, who was acquired from the Marlins last month, is out of options.

Outside candidates on the 40-man roster include Yoan Aybar, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Mike Shawaryn, Jeffrey Springs, and Phillips Valdez.

The Catchers:

Christian Vazquez
Jonathan Lucroy

Although Kevin Plawecki is on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, it is only for $900,000, so it would not be a huge financial loss if the Sox went with Lucroy instead.

The two-time All-Star signed a minor-league deal with Boston earlier in February and has a far more impressive offensive track record than Plawecki does. He also appears to have a solid relationship with Roenicke from when the two were with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Infielders:

Mitch Moreland
Michael Chavis
Jose Peraza
Xander Bogaerts
Rafael Devers
Jonathan Arauz
Tzu-Wei Lin

Lin is out of options, and as a Rule 5 selection, Arauz would have to be offered back to the Astros if he does not stick on Boston’s 26-man roster, so I believe those two will make it, especially with the defensive versatility Lin offers.

Bogaerts has been dealing with a sore left ankle since workouts began nearly two weeks ago, but it looks like that is a non-issue as far as his status for Opening Day is concerned.

Top prospect Bobby Dalbec is not listed here, but I would personally love to see him make it if he were to get adequate playing time at the big-league level. With Devers manning third and Moreland and Chavis handling first base duties though, that does not seem likely at this point.

Also, Dustin Pedroia will begin the year on the 60-day injured list.

The Outfielders:

Andrew Benintendi
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Kevin Pillar
J.D. Martinez

With Alex Verdugo likely to start the season on the injured list due to a lower back stress fracture, Kevin Pillar is likely to slide in as an everyday outfielder, which he is more than capable of doing.

As I mentioned, Lin, and even prospect C.J. Chatham, are capable of playing a little outfield if necessary. And the Red Sox may need a temporary fourth outfielder during Verdugo’s absence if they do not want Martinez to spend too much time in the outfield.

So there you have it. 26 roster spots. 26 predictions with a whole lot of other possibilities as well. I’ll leave you with my guess for what the Opening Day starting lineup could look like:

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Christian Vazquez, C
  7. Michael Chavis, 2B
  8. Kevin Pillar, RF
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
    Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

 

Red Sox’ Chris Sale Has Pneumonia

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale has pneumonia, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

“He’s got the flu as you guys know,” Roenicke told reporters after the team’s first workout at JetBlue Park on Wednesday. “But it’s gone into a mild case of pneumonia. He is actually feeling really good. He’s had this for about a week and a half.”

Sale, who was absent from Wednesday’s workout, will be reevaluated on Friday, per Roenicke.

“it sounds probably worse than what it is,” the interim skipper added. “But he said last night he had a great night sleep. So he was really happy about it.”

Obviously, this is not the news you want to hear just as spring training begins. But, it does seem as if Sale will be good to go come the end of the week, which is promising.

The soon-to-be 31-year-old hurler is coming off his worst season in the majors last year after posting a 4.40 ERA over 25 starts and just 147 1/3 innings of work. He did not make a start after August 13th due to left elbow inflammation.

That inflammation was treated with a PRP injection from Dr. James Andrews that same month, and Sale was cleared to throw again in December. According to Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran, the lefty’s arm is “fully healthy.”

“We expected Chris to be ready to go,” O’Halloran said Tuesday. “He’s ill. He’s sick, so that’s going to slow him down. But other than that, he’s fine.”

The Red Sox will presumably ease Sale into things once he is healthy enough to fully report to camp.

The Florida native is entering the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with Boston last spring.

Travis Lakins Would Be Intriguing Option to Open Games for Red Sox in 2020

As things stand headed into the new year, the Red Sox have five viable options to make up their starting rotation next season in Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and the recently-signed Martin Perez.

However, with it looking more and more likely that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will eventually trade Price away to a club like the Los Angeles Dodgers or St. Louis Cardinals, a hole in that rotation may open yet again.

Because of that possibility, it’s not all that ridiculous to think that the Sox could pursue using an opener in 2020 if they do not add another starting pitcher. Remember, Bloom was at the helm in Tampa when the Rays began employing the opener strategy in 2018.

Going off what The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey said in a predictions piece last week, Boston would be more prepared to implement an opener next season than they were this past one, when they had to turn to the strategy out of necessity due to injuries.

With that, right-hander Travis Lakins presents one potential name who could fill that opener role for the Sox come the spring.

In 16 appearances, three of which were starts, in 2019, the 25-year-old rookie posted a 3.86 ERA and 5.22 xFIP over 23 1/3 innings of work spanning five stints with the big-league club.

A 5.22 xFIP in the majors is certainly nothing to write home about, but when you narrow Lakins’ numbers down to when he appeared as an opener for the first time on September 7th against the Yankees, the results improve greatly to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, a 4.45 xFIP, and a .650 OPS against over six outings (three starts) and eight innings pitched.

It’s a small sample size, sure, but if Bloom and Co. are going to be looking for a creative way to fill Price’s spot in the starting rotation once he is eventually dealt, Lakins certainly checks that box.

Red Sox Sign Left-Hander Martin Perez to One-Year Deal

The Red Sox and left-hander Martin Perez have reportedly agreed on a one-year, $6 million deal for the 2020 season that includes a $6.25 million club option for 2021, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Perez, who turns 29 in April, spent this past season with the Minnesota Twins, where he posted an ERA of 5.12 over 32 outings (29 starts) and 165 1/3 innings of work.

Among the 26 American League hurlers with at least 160 innings under their belt in 2019, Perez ranked 22nd in ERA, 17th in xFIP (4.69), ninth in hard-hit rate (35%), and 21st in fWAR (1.9), per FanGraphs.

A former international signee out of Venezuela by the Texas Rangers back in 2007, Perez will look to fill the void left in the Sox’ starting rotation by Rick Porcello, who happened to sign a one-year deal with the New York Mets on Thursday as well.

In his career at Fenway Park, Perez owns a lifetime 5.96 ERA and batting average against of .287 over four starts and 22 2/3 innings pitched. That includes six innings of one-run ball in one of his final starts as a Twin back on September 5th.

With the additions of Perez and infielder Jose Peraza via free agency, as well as Jonathan Aurez through the Rule 5 Draft made by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. on Thursday, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster should stand at 39 players once everything is official.