There was an upbeat vibe at Fenway Park Wednesday afternoon following Chris Sale’s live batting practice session.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora called it eye-opening, relaying that Sale reached 94-95 miles per hour with his fastball over two simulated innings. Christian Arroyo, one of the hitters who faced Sale, said the lefthander’s stuff was nasty.
“I’ve faced Chris probably six times now. It’s never easy,” Arroyo said. “It was nice to see probably one of the best lefthanders, if not the best, in the game. He looked good. Stuff looked good. Typical Chris Sale. What more can you ask for?”
“It’s huge having him back here,” added lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez. “And he’s still helping me when I’m pitching, the way to attack guys. Throw more strikes or whatever. He’s still there for me.”
Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello were mentors to Rodriguez and played an integral part in his development. He still keeps in contact with Price and Porcello, but Sale’s presence is significant to Rodriguez.
Sale will throw another live batting practice session in Fort Myers, Fla., at the team’s spring training facility instead of traveling on this weekend’s West Coast trip. It will be another two innings, Cora said, with the hope that Sale can start a rehab assignment after that. The Sox are likely to start Sale at Triple A Worcester instead of having him progress through each minor league level.
When Sale rejoins the rotation, it not only will make the staff better, it will also provide added depth.
“Team-wise, it’s really good timing because of the way he pitches,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a huge help for the team to keep going the way we are.”
The players rallied around Sale as he took the mound on Wednesday. Last year, Sale talked about the importance of celebrating small victories in his rehab following Tommy John surgery.
Wednesday, however, felt like a big win for Sale and his teammates.
“It’s good to see him out there working his ass off to get back out there and compete,” reliever Josh Taylor said. “He loves the game and loves the process of it. Seeing the grind and the work he’s putting in to get back, it’s just reassuring.”
Here’s what Sale’s live batting practice session looked like from Fenway:
Downs in Futures Game
Prospect Jeter Downs will participate in this year’s Futures Game during the All-Star break in July. Downs will be the Sox’ lone participant.
“I think it’s great,” Cora said. “Honestly, it’s a showcase. He’s going to be around the best of the best prospects in the league. This is a guy that we believe is going to be a good big player. Just to be in that environment, it has to be special.”
Downs entered Wednesday hitting .243/.323/.410 with a .733 OPS. and seven homers at Triple A Worcester. Downs had to be taken out of Tuesday night’s game against Scranton after a collision at home plate. He was not in the lineup Wednesday.
Arroyo getting close
Arroyo (right knee contusion) will likely go on a rehab assignment with Triple A Worcester beginning Thursday. Arroyo said he is excited to get back out there.
“I’m doing really good,” he said. “Ran out there, took ground balls, everything is feeling really good.”
Tanner Houck’s start for Worcester on Tuesday was encouraging.
The righthander tossed four innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four. Houck did hit two batters, but the reports Cora got from WooSox pitching coach Paul Abbott were encouraging.
“He felt like he was really good,” Cora said. “Command was good. The intent was good.”
With the Sox likely moving to a six-man rotation after the All-Star break to give their starters a bit of a breather, Houck seems as if he would be the one to help fill that spot.
It’s likely that prospects Triston Casas and Jarren Duran join Team USA in its pre-Olympic workouts, which is the same week as the Futures Game. The US will name its roster for the Olympics on Friday ... Phase 2 of All-Star voting concludes Thursday at 2 p.m. At 9 p.m., the starting teams will be announced. Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Alex Verdugo, and Rafael Devers are all finalists. Both Devers and Bogaerts entered Phase 2 in first place at their respective positions.