It's time for Chris Sale to be Chris Sale

Rob Bradford
April 16, 2019 - 12:51 pm

The Chris Sale conversation to this point has been, to be kind, uncomfortable.

After Game 1 in Seattle there was the idea that he was still building up from spring training, explaining away a high 80's fastball.

Then there was Start 2 in Oakland when we later learned Sale had been battling illness. That was also the outing Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie threw down the gauntlet for all those worried about the lack of velocity on the lefty's heater.

"You guys want him to pitch the whole year or do you want him to go out and throw 100 (mph) right now and not be there for his team? He’s building," explained LeVangie. "He had a long year last year. He’s building up to be the guy he wants to be. He started last year similar, but we’re getting to that point, but just not right now."

Start 3 saw the velocity tick up a bit, but without the kind of results anyone was looking for. After that one Red Sox manager Alex Cora pointed to a lack of command with his slider than still getting minimal swings and misses on his foundation pitch, the fastball.

Now comes Start 4. This is the one Sale not only needs but his team desperately is counting on, as well. This is the moment made for an ace, so that's what pitcher needs to be.

Understanding we are only in mid-April and seasons -- for players or teams -- aren't defined so early on, this game against the Yankees in the Bronx might represent somewhat of an outlier. The Red Sox' losing ways (6-11) are getting kind of uncomfortable, and four starts for Sale would seem to be enough to put any workload/shoulder concerns in the rearview mirror.

Sale's fourth start of the season a year ago was a home start against the Orioles that saw the temperature sitting at 34 degrees when the first pitch was thrown. The frigid conditions were obvious reasons for the starter's lack of velocity that day, with his fastball averaging just over 90 mph. But even with the downturn in MPHs he still finished off six of his eight strikeouts with heaters, finishing the outing allowing one run on two hits over five innings.

That's not the image he has portrayed to this point.

Another reason this should be Sale's fork in the road is the venue, Yankee Stadium.

He has pitched there three times as a member of the Red Sox, allowing four runs in 18 1/3 innings (1.96 ERA) to go along with a .179 batting average against. For his career at the home of the Yankees Sale has managed a 1.86 ERA. And not to mention, this will be against a New York lineup without its starting third baseman, shortstop, first baseman, centerfielder, catcher and designated hitter.

And now he has hit catcher, Sandy Leon, back.

In other words, the time is now for Chris Sale to start becoming Chris Sale.