Red Sox left-handed starting pitcher Chris Sale had a strong, encouraging spring training outing Monday afternoon. He worked two scoreless innings, striking out two without walking anyone. He allowed two hits, but both were singles. He also was hitting 96 with his fastball and generally looked like his old self.
"It was awesome," Sale said on the broadcast (via masslive). "It took a long road. Everybody knows what happened not only to myself but everybody in this organization really lifting me up to get me to this spot. And I'm just really appreciative of it."
He himself notes that it's been a long road. Let's go back to 2018. Sale was an All-Star for the seventh consecutive season. He finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting and it was the sixth straight season he was in the top five (he finished sixth in 2012, too). He was the ace of a Red Sox team that won 108 regular season games and never faced elimination en route to a World Series title.
The next year, Sale went 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA, easily the worst mark in his career. Then he had Tommy John surgery in 2020. He only made nine starts in 2021 upon his return and then dealt with a stress fracture in his ribcage last season. He returned, but then broke a finger on a line drive. He returned from that and subsequently broke his wrist after falling off his bicycle.
The short version: Sale was not himself in 2019 and then only made 11 starts in the next three seasons.
He's also 33 years old, which means there could be plenty of shelf life left for him as a productive big-league pitcher. Take note of Justin Verlander winning the Cy Young last season at age 39.
Let's also latch onto the velocity. Sale hitting 96 in his first spring outing was especially encouraging, given that in 2018, he averaged 95.2 miles per hour on his heater.
Spring outings are exhibitions. They are relatively meaningless, though there's always room for positive vibes, especially if it's a youngster or a returning-from-injury veteran. In Sale's case, under all the circumstances ever since that 2018 championship, there were certainly plenty of positive vibes.