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Red Sox lefthander Chris Sale feels he ‘owes these people something’ and is confident he can be the pitcher he once was

Chris Sale averaged 192 innings from 2012-19 and has since thrown a total of 48⅓.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

SPRINGFIELD — Chris Sale doesn’t have any fractured bones or fresh surgical scars, so that’s a start.

His rib, left pinkie, and right wrist have all healed up and he’s now nearly three years clear of Tommy John surgery.

“We’re good. Humpty Dumpty got put back together,” Sale said Saturday during the Red Sox Winter Weekend event.

Sale was positive to the point of near giddiness during a 20-minute conversation with reporters, joking that he turns 34 in March but his arm is only 30 after so much inactivity.

“I’m very, very excited going forward,” Sale said. “This is the first spring training I’ve been able to be excited about in a while. I’m just very appreciative of that.


“Going to try and hold on to that and roll with it.”

Sale blew out his elbow during spring training in 2020 and had Tommy John surgery. He did not return to the majors until August 2021.

Sale pitched well until the postseason, when he gave up 10 runs on 12 hits over nine innings.

Last season was delayed by a fractured rib that happened during the lockout. Sale returned on July 12 and threw five shutout innings against Tampa Bay. Five days later, Sale was hit in the hand by a line drive and fractured his finger.

Sale returned to the injured list and resumed throwing before he fractured his right wrist in what he and the Sox say was a bicycle accident. That ended his season.

Now, finally, he’s healthy.

“That’s three years of [pitching] that’s not on my arm. That’s not going on the odometer,” Sale said. “I’ve kept myself in really good physical shape. My arm’s feeling good. I don’t have any hesitation going forward with pitching.”

Sale started throwing earlier this winter and has already been off the mound. Pitching coach Dave Bush said there is no hard cap on Sale’s innings.


“We are very aware of how his body recovers and that’s going to guide us more than anything else about when he’s available,” Bush said. “Chris is in a good spot.”

Sale acknowledged arm strength will be an issue. He averaged 192 innings from 2012-19 and has since thrown a total of 48⅓.

Weightlifting and long toss can build that back up but it will take time.

He believes he can be the same power pitcher he was prior to the injuries.

“My expectations, they never waver. I’m not going to lower them for any reason … I have full confidence in myself,” Sale said.

That said, Sale’s velocity in April is likely to be low by his standards. The telling numbers will be later in the season.

Sale hasn’t been an All-Star since 2018. What kind of pitcher he will be in 2023 is anybody’s guess. He could be back on the injured list in April or in a duel against Jacob deGrom at Fenway Park in July.

The range of possibilities feels endless. That the Red Sox have built up their rotation depth speaks to what they think. They don’t know, either.

“His injuries last season weren’t to his arm,” Bush said. “There’s no reason to think he can’t come back and pitch well.”

If nothing else, Sale has gained a new sense of perspective. Baseball was taken away from him and with that went his identity.


“Showing up to a baseball park and not playing baseball? What are you?” he said. “I take a lot of pride in what I do. I like working hard and I like being good. I want to do my job.”

In all, Sale has missed approximately 70 starts in the four seasons since the knee-bending slider that struck out Manny Machado to end the 2018 World Series. He is 11-13 with a 4.09 earned run average.

Sale has two years remaining on his five-year, $145 million contract. That deal has been a wreck so far.

Motivation to change that won’t be an issue.

“I owe these people something,” Sale said. “I owe my teammates the starting pitcher they thought they were going to get. I owe the front office the starting pitcher they paid for. I owe the fans performances they’re paying to come and see.”

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.