Red Sox’ Alex Cora sees a lot of Nathan Eovaldi in newcomer Garrett Richards

When the Red Sox agreed to sign veteran right-hander Garrett Richards to a one-year, $10 million contract last month, they did so knowing there would be some risk involved.

Excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the last time the 32-year-old accrued more than 150 innings pitched in a single campaign came in 2015 when he was a member of the Angels.

In July 2018, his season was cut short due to right elbow UCL damage which would require Tommy John surgery that same month.

Since successfully recovering from the elbow reconstruction, Richards has technically not missed a beat, though he’s made just 17 appearances (13 starts) — all with the Padres — at the major-league level dating back to late September 2019.

Even in a limited sample size, however, the Oklahoma native proved to be effective enough for San Diego in 2020, posting a 4.03 ERA and 4.28 FIP over 14 outings (10 starts) and 51 1/3 innings pitched while placing in the 82nd percentile in fastball velocity, the 97th percentile in fastball spin, and the 99th percentile in curveball spin among big-league hurlers, per Baseball Savant.

The fact that Richards had quality stuff — and quite frankly has had quality stuff since being selected by the Angels in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft — last year made him appealing to a lot of clubs this offseason, the Red Sox included.

“Stuff-wise, for me, he was one of the best in the league,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Richards’ career when speaking to reporters via Zoom earlier Saturday. “He’s been hurt, but what I saw last year with the Padres was eye-opening. I’m glad that he’s with us. This is a guy that when we talked to him during the offseason, he feels that there’s more. For how veteran he is and his age, he hasn’t wasted too many bullets, right? Because he’s been hurt.”

In Cora’s praise of Richards, the 6-foot-2, 210 lb. righty also drew comparisons to a key member of Boston’s World Series-winning team in 2018 in Nathan Eovaldi.

The Sox acquired Eovaldi in late July of that season, a little less than two years after the flame-throwing right-hander had undergone Tommy John surgery for the second time in his baseball career. He went on to produce a 3.33 ERA over 12 outings (11 starts) and 54 innings to close out the regular season for Boston and a 1.61 ERA over six outings (two starts) and 22 1/3 innings in the postseason.

“It’s pretty similar to what we got in ’18 with Nate, when we traded for him,” said Cora Saturday. “A guy that has been hurt, but we knew at that time that he was going to be okay. Stuff-wise, off the charts.”

While Richards, like Eovaldi, has the potential to do some special things on the mound in 2021, one thing that cannot be ignored about his addition is the veteran presence he provides, especially with the uncertainty stemming from the ongoing pandemic.

“He’s a good teammate, too,” the Sox skipper confidently stated. “He was in a winning situation last year with the Padres and it’s good to have him around. With all the guidelines and everything because of the virus, it’s not that easy to get the groups together like we usually do in meetings to meet people. But, little by little, we will get to know him — we’ll get to know all of them — and he’s somebody that I’m looking forward to pitch every five days and see where he can go.”

Because Cora, who talks to the media first every day, mentioned Eovaldi when praising Richards, the 31-year-old Sox starter, who also spoke to the media on Saturday, was asked about the rotation newcomer and how their situations compare in regards to overcoming injuries.

“Early on, getting to see him throw a couple bullpens, his stuff is so electric,” Eovaldi said of Richards’ pitch repertoire. “The slider, the changeup, the fastball. It all comes out of the hand really well. He’s got a little bit of a different delivery, I think, but he looks great coming into camp. I’m excited to have him here.

“And then getting over the hurdles, I think you just build off of each start,” he continued. “You continuously build, you build that confidence up. I think him being here, our pitching staff, having [pitching coach Dave Bush and bullpen coach Kevin Walker] around, I think that’s going to help him out a lot. Just mainly using his strengths when he’s pitching and just keep attacking.”

At the moment, both Eovaldi and Richards are slated to crack the Red Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation. I would pencil them in to be the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 starters at this point, but that’s really more of a guess than anything.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale experienced neck stiffness setback over holidays, has resumed throwing program since then

On the road to recovery from Tommy John surgery, Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale apparently ran into a setback some time within the past month or so, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Per Bradford, “Sale experienced a setback around the holidays due to neck stiffness. The ailment put a halt to the starter’s throwing program, which he has begun participating in again.”

The encouraging aspect of this is that Sale has since resumed his throwing program, though his “workouts now include treatment on the neck issue to prevent the problem from cropping up again,” Bradford writes.

Sale, who turns 32 in March, underwent elbow reconstruction surgery on March 29 last year.

Pitchers typically take anywhere between 12-15 months to recover from said operation, which would put the southpaw on track to return to the mound at some point this summer if all goes accordingly.

“With Chris, we’re still looking at a midsummer return to have him fully stretched out as a starter,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Sale in November. “But everything continues going along with that. Arm’s doing great, which is awesome.”

Earlier this month, however, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Sox are expected to be “cautious” with Sale’s rehab and that “the pace for his return from Tommy John surgery is expected to be deliberate.”

The seven-time All-Star inked a five-year, $145 million contract extension with Boston shortly before the start of the 2019 campaign, when then-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was at the helm.

Since then, Sale has started just 25 games for the Red Sox, posting a 4.40 ERA and .695 OPS against over 147 1/3 innings pitched before getting shut down due to left elbow inflammation in August 2019, which ultimately led to TJS the following spring.

Under contract through the 2024 season (vesting option for 2025) with the opportunity to opt out after 2022, Sale is slated to earn $30 million in 2021. That dollar figure translates to $25.6 million for luxury tax purposes.

As noted by Bradford, the Florida native was expected to begin throwing off a mound sometime this month, though it appears the neck stiffness he dealt with and is getting treatment on threw a wrench in those plans.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox expected ‘to take a conservative approach’ in Chris Sale’s return from Tommy John surgery, per report

Even though left-hander Chris Sale is slated to throw off a mound later this month for the first since undergoing Tommy John surgery last March, the Red Sox could be taking things slow with the starting pitcher’s rehab, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Sale, who turns 32 in March, last pitched in a big-league game on August 13, 2019.

The Florida native signed a five-year, $145 million contract extension — which includes an opt-out after 2022 and a vesting option for 2025 — with Boston shortly before the start of the 2019 season.

Because of the money they have invested in him, the Red Sox, writes Olney, “would love for Sale to come back and be a factor at some point in 2021, [but are more] apt to take a conservative approach.”

Put another way, “the pace for [Sale’s] return from Tommy John surgery is expected to be deliberate, according to sources.”

As Olney notes, pitchers typically take anywhere from 12 to 15 months to recover from the elbow reconstruction that is Tommy John surgery.

With that time frame in mind, Sale, in theory, could be on track for a June or July return to the mound this coming season, especially given the hurler’s drive.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters back in November.

“With Chris, we’re still looking at a midsummer return to have him fully stretched out as a starter,” said Bloom. “But everything continues going along with that. Arm’s doing great, which is awesome.”

While Sale’s arm may be “doing great” at the moment, there is a legitimate possibility that the Red Sox would not want to rush the seven-time All-Star back too soon given the fact he is still under contract for at least two more seasons, and likely more.

“Both the team and the pitcher have reason to take a long view on his recovery,” Olney wrote earlier Monday. “The bulk of the left-hander’s production for the Red Sox will happen in the last three years of the deal.”

Per Spotrac, Sale is set to earn $30 million in 2021 as well as $30 million in 2022, $27.5 million in 2023, and another $27.5 million in 2024. Good for a hefty sum of $85 million over the final three years of his contract. He has a full no-trade clause included in there as well.

Taking the idea that Sale’s time table could be pushed back further than initially expected, Boston may need to do even more to address their starting rotation needs between now and the start of the 2021 season.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora touched upon this issue when appearing on MLB Network Radio over the weekend.

“I think being deeper means the world this year,” said Cora. “You come from a short season and all of a sudden you’re asking these guys to perform at the high levels for a lot of innings. So you’ve gotta be careful. So we’re trying to do that and at the same time, compete at the highest level on a daily basis.”

Last year, Boston starters put up the second-worst ERA in baseball (5.34) while finishing second-to-last in innings pitched (246). As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “that’s a 162-game pace of just 664.2 innings.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox Top Pitching Prospect Jay Groome Faces Live Hitters at McCoy Stadium

For the first time since being added to the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, Jay Groome, the club’s top left-handed pitching prospect, faced live hitters at McCoy Stadium earlier Tuesday morning.

Getting some work in during a live batting practice session, Groome threw 25-30 pitches and faced the likes of other top prospects in the organization such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong, as well as Jhonny Pereda, and reached 94 mph with his fastball while also mixing in his curveball and changeup.

There were no umpires and very few fielders around him, but as WEEI’s Rob Bradford puts it, “Tuesday represented a big step forward” for Groome.

Turning 22 years old later this month, the New Jersey native was originally taken by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School and later signed for $3.65 million.

Since that time, though, Groome has only made 20 professional starts across three minor-league levels as he has been hampered with different arm ailments, most recently undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018.

Upon recovering from TJS, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was able to make three starts with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners last year, and now, he’s inching closer to appearing in a simulated game in Pawtucket.

Of course, under normal circumstances, Groome would likely be pushing for a promotion to Double-A Portland right about now, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hurler’s development path has certainly been disrupted.

PawSox pitching coach Paul Abbott said as much about Groome when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“Obviously he needs to log innings,” stated Abbott. “He’s missed some valuable development periods for him to get on the mound and learn how to pitch as you go every step of the way.  Here’s a way how everything is looking, how everything is working so we have a good, solid idea going into spring training next year.”

With that in mind, the plan over the next six weeks is to see how Groome handles facing different levels of hitters so that the Red Sox have a good idea on where he will be at going into spring training next year.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale on Handling Criticism: ‘I’ve Never Paid Attention to What People Say About Me, Because It Doesn’t Matter’

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale underwent successful Tommy John surgery seven weeks ago.

Before Tuesday, the 31-year-old had only spoken to the media once since undergoing the procedure in Los Angeles, but he spoke with ESPN’s Mary Rivera in an extensive one-on-one, presumably over-phone interview earlier this week.

Topics covered in said interview included Sale’s recovery from Tommy John, criticism from fans over his contract, the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts and David Price, thoughts on a disappointing 2019 season, the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, and Alex Cora’s departure from Boston.

You can read Rivera’s conversation with Sale in full here, but I wanted to hit on a few highlights, starting with the Florida native being asked if it’s “hard to handle the criticism” from people who believe he has not lived up to expectations under his new contract.

“When I got to Boston, my first year was really good,” Sale said. “My second season was decent but I ran into some shoulder issues. We ended up winning a World Series, so I’d even call that a relatively good season with a little hiccup. Then, 2019 was an absolute disaster. But in the end, I’ve never paid attention to what people say about me, because it doesn’t matter.”

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Sale inked a five-year, $145 million contract extension with the Red Sox while Dave Dombrowski still served as the club’s president of baseball operations.

Dombrowski has since been removed from that post and was effectively replaced by former Rays executive and current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, whose first major move at the helm in Boston was dealing Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February.

That sort of transaction, which significantly hindered the Red Sox’ chances of winning in 2020, could have upset a veteran like Sale, whose first priority is to win no matter who he plays for, but he did not seem to take too much offense to it.

“Very rarely in this day and age, you get to play with the same team for a long time,” Sale told Rivera. “We have to adapt and go with it. We don’t make decisions; we don’t trade players. We show up to spring training and we do our best to win with the players we have.”

At the time Betts and Price were dealt to Los Angeles, the 2020 MLB season really wasn’t in question. That has obviously changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, and Sale isn’t too sure there will even be a season at all. Not like that matters much for him anyway since he is still recovering from Tommy John.

It still is a concerning matter for players who can play this year though, and Sale certainly feels for them while the MLBPA remains in active negotiations with the league.

“There’s too many moving parts with all this right now,” he said in regard to getting baseball back this year. “There’s obviously negotiations between the players and the owners, and that’s what I hope we can iron out sooner rather than later. On my end of it, I’m not missing any games that everyone else isn’t missing. Plus, I’m not getting paid, so no one can call me an overpaid asshole right now [laughs].”

For the time being, Sale will continue the process of coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s been one of the few players to work out at Fenway South in Fort Myers since the complex opened back up earlier in the month.

“I’ve been doing a shoulder program and we’re doing soft-tissue stuff but I’m starting to get into some pushing stuff, some rows,” Sale said of the rehab process. “A lot of this actually is a lot of shoulder work too, which is good.

“We can kind of start, as they say, tearing it down to the studs. I can work from the ground up. I can completely tear my body down and build it back up. Right now, since I’m not really working out to achieve anything, I can really focus on the little fine details that sometimes might be overlooked getting ready for a big, bulky season. I love the guys I’m working with and I know I’m in good hands.”

If all goes according to plan, Sale should be able to return to a big league mound sometime in June or July 2021.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale Speaks on Tommy John Surgery for First Time Since Undergoing Procedure Last Month

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale spoke with the media on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery late last month.

Speaking via a conference call with several reporters, the 31-year-old said that he’s “really happy” with where he’s at right now and he’ll get his cast taken off sometime on Thursday.

From there, Sale said that he will “probably” begin the rehab process at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, but if worst comes to worst in regards to the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic, he could start working out again at his own house in nearby Naples.

“We could have done this six months ago,” Sale said in regards to the procedure. “But I’m okay with that. I didn’t want to jump the gun, I wanted to make sure this was something that needed to be done.”

After being shut down last August due to inflammation in his left elbow, Sale was eventually given the go-ahead to begin throwing again right around Thanksgiving.

Heading into the start of spring training, Sale was completely healthy outside of a bout of pneumonia he dealt with earlier in the year.

“I truly thought I was in the clear,” the hurler said. “I had all the confidence in the world coming into spring training that my arm was going to be as good, if not better, than it was my entire career.”

That turned out not to be the case though, as Sale experienced soreness in his left elbow in early March, shortly after he faced live hitters for the first time since before he was shut down last August.

Later diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain, Sale was prescribed a two-week period of rest and did not begin throwing again until the middle of March.

Even after that period of rest, Sale again experienced discomfort in his left elbow while throwing and that’s ultimately how the decision for the Florida native to undergo Tommy John was reached.

“It was a punch to the gut,” he said. “It was tough to let my teammates down.”

As tough as it may have been, Sale did say that he “sleep[s] easier knowing we did everything we could. We turned over every stone.”

Sale’s rotation-mate Nathan Eovaldi has undergone Tommy John surgery twice in his career. When seeking advice from Eovaldi, Sale was advised to “set little goals” for himself and to not look at the recovery process as a year-long endeavor, but instead focus on two weeks at a time.

“I have a chip on my shoulder,” Sale said. “Well, I guess I have a chip in my elbow, too.”

The typical recovery time for Tommy John surgery is usually 14-15 months, so we probably won’t see Sale on a big league mound again until June 2021 at the earliest.

On a positive note, Sale did say that he throws a “mean” right-handed cutter with a wiffle ball to his sons, so that’s pretty neat.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale Undergoes Successful Tommy John Surgery in Los Angeles

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale has undergone successful Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, industry sources have told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

The typical recovery time from this procedure is anywhere between 14 to 15 months, so Sale will likely be out of commission until sometime around June 2021 at the earliest.

The Red Sox announced that Sale, who turned 31 on Monday, would undergo Tommy John surgery on March 19th, six days after he began throwing again and felt more discomfort in his left elbow following a brief session outside that following Tuesday.

Per Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, Sale had experienced enough pain then to shut things down once more, and “the decision after that became clear.”

Since the club announced that the Florida native would be undergoing Tommy John, things had been relatively quiet surrounding the matter before Monday. That is mostly due to the fact that many states have put limitations on elective procedures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting healthcare facilities across the country.

As Speier notes in the attached article above, “Among the doctors who have stopped performing Tommy John procedures in response to the pandemic is Dr. James Andrews. An Andrews Institute spokesperson said on Monday that the institute had suspended elective procedures, including Tommy John.”

The Red Sox themselves just announced via Twitter that Sale’s procedure to repair his left UCL was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, CA, so there’s that.

Entering the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with Boston last March, Sale is set to earn approximately $30 million in 2020.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale will undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, the team officially announced Thursday.

This news comes one day after it was reported by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that Sale had recently begun another throwing program in Fort Myers nearly three weeks after throwing to live hitters for the first time since last year at the beginning of the month.

The day after throwing that live bullpen session, Sale began to feel discomfort in the same left elbow he had issues with in 2019, and the results of his MRI revealed a flexor tendon strain. Those results were sent over to esteemed sports medicine specialists Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Neil ElAttrache, but neither doctor recommended surgery at the time and instead prescribed Sale with rest since his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) was “unchanged”, per interim manager Ron Roenicke.

While speaking with reporters in a conference call on Thursday, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained that Sale began throwing again last Friday, then threw a light session on Sunday, but had to be shut down while throwing outside on Tuesday due to the pain he felt in that elbow. That’s how the decision for the left-hander to go under the knife was reached.

According to Bloom, the date for Sale’s surgery has not yet been set, but he does “expect it to be soon, in the fairly near future.”

The recovery time for a pitcher undergoing Tommy John surgery is typically anywhere between 12 to 15 months, so depending on when Sale does have it, he will miss the entirety of the 2020 season, whenever that starts, as well as some time in 2021.

Sale, who turns 31 later this month, is set to earn $30 million this season in the first year of the five-year, $145 million contract extension he signed with Boston last March.

The Florida native missed the final six weeks of the 2019 campaign due to inflammation in his left elbow and dealt with a bout of pneumonia right around the time camp broke this year.

Without Sale in their plans, the Red Sox’ starting rotation will be composed of Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez. Outside of those three, Ryan Weber had looked solid in his handful of spring starts, while Roenicke also mentioned Brian Johnson and an opener as potential rotation options on Thursday.

“”It’s never just about one season. We’re always going to make sure we’ll bolster our long-term outlook as well,” Bloom said in regard to this year’s Red Sox. “Losing Chris for 2020 isn’t going to make our task any easier.”

Red Sox’ Seventh-Ranked Prospect Jay Groome Tosses Another Scoreless First Inning in Second Gulf Coast League Start

After making his first professional appearance in nearly two years on August 21st, Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Jay Groom tossed a scoreless first inning once again in his second start with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on Monday.

Facing off against the Baltimore Orioles’ GCL squad in Sarasota, Fla., the 21-year-old had a man on second with no outs following a leadoff single and stolen base, but he managed to work his way around the jam with a three-pitch strikeout and back-to-back first-pitch groundouts to retire the side in the bottom half of the first.

In total, Groome needed just six pitches, all of which were strikes, to work his second consecutive scoreless first inning in a contest the GCL Sox eventually dropped by a final score of 5-2.

Ranked as the seventh overall prospect in Boston’s system and third amongst pitchers behind right-hander Bryan Mata and left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, Groome is working his way back after undergoing successful Tommy John Surgery in May of 2018.

With the Gulf Coast League regular season wrapping up on August 31st and the Sox’ GCL club already eliminated from playoff contention, it looks as though Groome’s last in-game action of 2019 will come against the Minnesota Twins’ GCL team this coming Saturday at JetBlue Park.

Red Sox’ Seventh-Ranked Prospect Jay Groome Punches out Two in 2019 Gulf Coast League Debut

Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Jay Groome tossed a scoreless first inning for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on Wednesday in what was his first professional appearance in nearly two years.

Facing off against the Atlanta Braves’ GCL team in North Port, Fla. earlier Wednesday morning, the soon to be 21-year-old hurler needed only eight pitches, all of which were strikes, to punch out two and yield one hit in a nearly-perfect frame of work.

Selected by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School in New Jersey, Groome had been out since the 2017 campaign, where he injured his throwing elbow late into the year and eventually underwent successful Tommy John surgery in May of 2018.

Before all that went down, Groome posted a 2.70 ERA and .125 batting average against over his first three professional starts and 6 2/3 innings pitched between the GCL Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners in 2016.

In 2017, the New Jersey native showed some signs of struggle, pitching to the tune of a 5.69 ERA and .234 batting average against through 14 starts and 55 1/3 total innings of work between Lowell and Class-A Greenville before being sidelined.

Per his MiLB.com page, Groome is on a rehab assignment with the GCL Sox, and given how the minor league season wraps up in under two weeks, it’s hard to imagine the lefty pitching anywhere else this year.

Despite all the time he has missed, Groome is still ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.