FORT MYERS, Fla. — Chris Sale made it through spring training without a scratch. For the first time since 2019, the Red Sox lefthander will be an active player on the roster come Opening Day.
“I just really wanted to focus on obviously getting all the way through and just sharpening my tools again,” Sale said after his final Grapefruit League start Sunday, a 7-2 loss to the Twins in which he went five innings, allowing a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. “[My spring was about] getting better, getting more mechanically sound. You guys know it’s been a while since I’ve been out there competitively.”
Elbow inflammation, Tommy John surgery, a broken rib, a broken pinky, and a broken wrist claimed much of Sale’s last four seasons. Getting through the spring healthy was a part of the mission for Sale. He wasn’t relieved to have done it, he said, but appreciative for the opportunity.
“I’m just happy to be here,” Sale said. “I’ve said it 1,000 times, but it’s been a long time and I’m just happy to have this opportunity to start the season healthy and give my team a chance to win. I haven’t been able to do that for a few years. So that’s what I’ve been wanting to do.”
Sale sat at 94-95 miles per hour for most of the spring, topping out at 98. He has a better feel for his slider, the pitch he needs to round out the rest of his fastball-changeup mix.
“That’s something I’m gonna have to have. If I’m going to be successful, that’s a big pitch for me,” Sale said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot with it. You know, obviously working, you’re always working on everything. But I felt like I came here with a mission and I’ve achieved that.”
Sale won’t start on Opening Day; that responsibility will belong to Corey Kluber. Manager Alex Cora wanted Sale to enjoy the day, then pitch Saturday in the second of the three-game set against the Orioles.
What will that start mean to Sale?
“More than you know,” he said. “It’s going to be a big day for a lot of people.”
Triston Casas gets his moment
It was a given Triston Casas would make the team out of camp. The Red Sox designated first baseman Eric Hosmer for assignment in December, clearing the way for Casas at the position.
But it still means something to a young player for them to hear that they made the Opening Day roster. So, Cora announced it during a team meeting Sunday morning.
“I’ve been thinking about this day for a really long time,” Casas said. “It’s going to be really special. I mean, Fenway, hopefully, we get a really good crowd. [That’s what] I’m expecting and hopefully there are a couple of festivities that make it that much more special. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be about going out there and getting that first one.”
Sunday represented a moment Casas manifested. When he was optioned to Triple A Worcester during camp last season, Casas told Cora that would be the last time the team would make that decision.
“The player that I was last year, I wasn’t good enough to make the team,” Casas said. “I knew that there was a lot of stuff that I had to work on. When I told AC that last year, I stood on it and I made sure that I made good on my word. I want to make sure that I’m a trustworthy part of the team.”
Casas is batting .346 (18 of 52) with three homers this spring.
“We love him the way he is,” Cora said.
Zack Kelly makes team
The Red Sox also informed Zack Kelly that he made the Opening Day roster during the meeting. It will be the first Opening Day for Kelly, who made his big league debut in August. He currently holds a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings this spring.
“We will use him in a multi-inning [role],” Cora said. “He’ll be one of those guys with [Josh Winckowski] in the bullpen. We feel very confident with him.”
The Red Sox still have one more spot to fill in their bullpen, Cora said.
Kiké Hernández OK after wrist scare
Kiké Hernández, who is hitting .136 this spring, was removed from Sunday’s game with a right wrist contusion. In the second inning, Hernández took a Sonny Gray fastball off the wrist. He remained at shortstop for the third and fourth, but was removed and replaced by Bobby Dalbec before the fifth. After the game, Cora said Hernández was OK and was taken out for precautionary reasons. The expectation is Hernández will play Monday against Atlanta . . . Connor Wong (hamstring) will catch Monday vs. the Braves as he continues his ramp up. Cora said he’s comfortable with Wong beginning the season on the roster, though no decision has been made. The Sox also haven’t made a decision regarding outfielder Raimel Tapia’s status with the club . . . Yu Chang, who arrived this week, will play his first Grapefruit League game Monday. Chang and Dalbec are battling for the backup middle infield role. Chang has no options, while Dalbec has two . . . Kenley Jansen will pitch Monday. He left Friday’s game as he dealt with lightheadedness . . . John Henry, owner of both the Red Sox and Boston Globe Media Partners, was at the game Sunday, as was former Sox righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.