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Sunday baseball notes

For Chris Sale and Jacob deGrom, chances for Cooperstown sidelined by injuries

Chris Sale, who was forced out with a shoulder issue June 1, has started only 22 games for the Red Sox over the last four seasons.Winslow Townson/Getty

Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale grew up in Central Florida, tall skinny kids who could throw hard.

They stayed in state to play in college, deGrom at Stetson and Sale at Florida Gulf Coast. Sale was a first-round pick of the White Sox in 2010, with deGrom going to the Mets in the ninth round. Sale made his debut later that season. It took deGrom until 2014.

Sale is a seven-time All-Star with a World Series ring. DeGrom won two Cy Young Awards and is a four-time All-Star. They became good friends along the way, too.

The Red Sox gave Sale a five-year, $146 million contract in 2019. DeGrom got his dream deal with Texas last winter at five years and $185 million.


Now, at 34, their paths have intertwined again — this time in a direction that leads away from the Hall of Fame.

DeGrom is out for the season and much of 2024 after learning he will need a second Tommy John surgery.

Sale is back on the injured list for the eighth time since 2018 with a stress reaction to his shoulder blade. He does not need surgery but will be out until at least August and likely longer. DeGrom had the same injury at the start of the 2022 season and didn’t appear in a major league game until Aug. 2.

“The hope is for him to go through his rehab and be ready to pitch at one point this season,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Sale.

The key word there is “hope.” There are no guarantees.

Injuries have limited deGrom to 215 starts and 1,356⅓ innings. He has started only 44 games over the last four seasons, going 18-8 with a 2.12 ERA. Sale, who started his major league career as a reliever, has 254 starts and 1,737 innings. He has a 3.23 ERA in six seasons in Boston, but since 2020 his appearances have been rare.


Despite their excellence when able to pitch, it’s a thin résumé for Cooperstown.

“Pre-pandemic, each had positioned himself for a run at Cooperstown,” said Jay Jaffe, a Hall of Fame scholar whose work appears at “But that would have required maintaining excellence well into the 30s, and at least durability and volume thereafter to get their numbers into Roy Halladay/Pedro Martinez volumes.

“Their limitations since then have really shifted the burden to needing to be extraordinarily productive during the back end of their 30s and into their 40s to even have a chance, and I don’t think anyone can look at their recent track records and think they have more than a sliver of hope in doing so.”

Halladay finished his career with 2,749⅓ innings and 390 starts. Martinez got to 409 starts and 2,827⅓ innings.

DeGrom and Sale fall into the same category as Johan Santana and Cliff Lee, pitchers who had impressive peaks but lacked longevity. Santana received 2.4 percent of the votes in 2018 and fell off the ballot. Lee had only 0.5 percent in 2020.

Sale has started only 22 games over the last four seasons and thrown 107⅓ innings. His contract runs through the 2024 season with a $20 million vesting option contingent on his finishing in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting and not ending the season on the injured list.


Sale was unusually ebullient during spring training, buoyed by his arm finally feeling strong again.

“Pitching is what I do. It’s what I’ve always done,” he said in March. “It was taken away from me and now I have another chance.”

Like deGrom, that chance has been taken away.


Yoshida’s style impresses Francona

Masataka Yoshida has impressed many this season, including Cleveland manager Terry Francona.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Masataka Yoshida was 8 for 25 in six games against Cleveland this season. What does Guardians manager Terry Francona think of the new Red Sox left fielder?

“I’ve seen too much of him,” Francona said. “His numbers are phenomenal [against] both lefties and righties, and I can see why.

“You’ve been around me long enough to know that I talk about liking guys who use the whole field. They’re going to hit for a higher average and he certainly does that. He has the ability to spray that ball to left field and get bailed out of an at-bat and he can hit the ball into the gap.

“He has really good hands, really good hitter’s hands. Even if he’s out in front a little, he still can stay back with his hands and shoot the ball in the gap.”

NESN’s Dave O’Brien said Yoshida’s hands remind him of Wade Boggs because of how quick they are. That’s a good statistical comparison, too. Yoshida’s 45 singles through his first 55 games in the majors are the most for a Sox player since Boggs had 53 in 1982.

Yoshida took an .878 OPS into the weekend, which is better than what Ichiro Suzuki posted in his first season with the Seattle Mariners (.838) in 2001. The difference is that Ichiro stole 56 bases that season and was a Gold Glove right fielder. Yoshida is not fast on the bases and his defense has been below average in left field.


With center fielder Adam Duvall back on the Sox’ roster and Kiké Hernández possibly getting more at-bats in the outfield once Yu Chang returns to shortstop, Yoshida may be getting more at-bats as the DH.

As a side note, kudos to Yoshida for telling Globe colleague Julian McWilliams that he doesn’t feel he should be considered for Rookie of the Year because he played seven seasons in Japan and is 29.

Yoshida is correct. The World Baseball Classic offered abundant proof that baseball in Japan is played at a high level and players coming from that league should not be considered rookies. The BBWAA should amend the qualifications for the award to reflect that.

A few other observations on the Red Sox:

▪ The original deal when the Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in 2020 was to receive Alex Verdugo from the Dodgers and righthander Brusdar Graterol from the Twins in a three-team deal.

After the Sox medical staff raised concerns about Graterol’s injury history, he was taken out of the trade and replaced by Dodgers prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

Graterol went to the Dodgers in a separate deal with the Twins.

Trading Betts will never go down as a good moment for the Sox. But they did well to acquire Wong instead of Graterol.


Graterol has a 3.32 ERA as a setup reliever for the Dodgers and has been worth 1.4 bWAR over four seasons. Wong made his major league debut in 2021 and has been worth 1.5 bWAR to the Sox.

At 27, Wong also has shown all the signs of being the primary catcher for this season and beyond, and that’s far more valuable than a reliever.

He has improved offensively this season, becoming a league-average hitter. Wong also has impressed the coaching staff with how he has embraced the idea of being there for the pitchers as they prepare for games and diving into game-planning.

Connor Wong (left) has been improving this season, both at the plate and behind it.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

“Offensively he’s in a better place than he was early in the season,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Now you can see him driving the ball the other way.”

Wong played only 131 minor league games from 2020-22 because of the pandemic, injuries, and time spent on the major league taxi squad. His development has taken a leap forward this season.

“The impact on the baseball has been real,” Cora said.

Defensively there are few questions. Wong is among the MLB leaders in defensive runs saved at his position and had thrown out nine runners going into the weekend.

▪ Verdugo will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season, so no decision is imminent. But given that he was benched Thursday in Cleveland for lack of hustle the night before, is this a player you’d trust with a contract extension?

Extensions are primarily based on performance. But a team also has to significantly factor in character.

Jim Bowden of The Athletic took an early look at how the All-Star teams would shake out and picked only one Sox player, Rafael Devers.

That’s not unreasonable. You can make decent cases for Yoshida and Verdugo, but only as backups. There aren’t any pitchers remotely close, given Kenley Jansen’s recent appearances.

Also keep in mind that a last-place team doesn’t usually merit multiple choices. The Sox haven’t had the mandatory one representative since Brock Holt was chosen in 2015.

▪ Lefthanded reliever Rio Gomez was summoned from Double A to make an emergency start June 3 for Triple A Worcester and allowed one run over 4⅓ innings against a loaded Louisville lineup. That earned Gomez another start Thursday, and he gave up two runs over 3⅓ innings against Rochester in a game the WooSox went on to win.

Gomez, the son of late ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, was cut from his high school team as a senior but persevered and is now a step away from the majors.

The Red Sox should reward a player such as Gomez the next time they need an emergency starter as opposed to somebody such as Matt Dermody, whose homophobic history on social media became a story.

▪ Rookie lefthander Chris Murphy has dedicated his career to the memory of Jessica Tovar, his former babysitter and a close family friend. She died of a rare form of cancer when he was 14.

Murphy, who regarded Tovar as more of an older sister, reflected on her fight whenever he needed motivation coming up through the minor leagues.

It was not an easy path. Murphy was a sixth-round draft pick in 2019 from the University of San Diego, saw the 2020 minor league season canceled because of the pandemic, then posted a 5.45 ERA when he reached Double A Portland in 2021.

On Wednesday, when he made his major league debut, Murphy had several friends and family members at Progressive Field, including Tovar’s mother.

“It was special having her there,” Murphy said. “She’s never watched me play baseball, at least as far as I can remember.”


Mientkiewicz lets it fly

Doug Mientkiewicz (left) caught the final out of the 2004 World Series.Bohn, John Globe Staff

Doug Mientkiewicz did a highly entertaining interview on the “Legends Territory” podcast with A.J. Pierzynski and Scott Braun.

Mientkiewicz crushed former high school teammate Alex Rodriguez, saying he was a “fraud” who didn’t belong on television.

“Stop it. I cringe when he opens his mouth because half of it’s true and half of it’s false,” said Mientkiewicz, who also claimed Rodriguez fell asleep in a chair at an event honoring their high school coach.

He also criticized USA Baseball for having named Andy Pettitte as a coach, given his acknowledged use of PEDs.

Mientkiewicz said the ball from the final out of the 2004 World Series was authenticated in front of former Sox president Larry Lucchino in St. Louis before he took it home. The Sox, he said, were fine with that.

Lucchino called him months later asking for the ball so it could be displayed at Fenway Park. That touched off a long dispute that included the Sox suing Mientkiewicz before the sides decided to donate the ball to the Hall of Fame, where it remains.

“It was a real [mess] from the start. It could have been handled way differently. On my end, too,” Mientkiewicz said.

Extra bases

The Blue Jays’ one-year, $9 million contract with Kevin Kiermaier has been one of the best bargains in baseball. After playing 10 seasons for Tampa Bay and dealing with a hip injury that required surgery last season, Kiermaier has found a spark with the Jays. His .839 OPS through 52 games is a career best and Kiermaier is playing Gold Glove-level defense in center field. “He’s been a game-changer for us,” manager John Schneider said. “He’s played in this division for so long that he fit right in.” . . . J.D. Martinez is flourishing again in a winning environment, posting a .918 OPS through 47 games. The Dodgers made a smart move getting him back with fellow cage rat Mookie Betts and hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc, who worked with Martinez when he was a private instructor . . . Terry Francona was asked if he ever makes decisions based on his gut instinct as opposed to what the data says is the right move. His answer was a bit of a surprise. “I feel like I owe it to our team to have a reason to make decisions. That’s how I feel,” he said. Ultimately, he said, information usually usurps his personal inclinations. But when a decision backfires, he’s the one who can’t get to sleep after the game . . . Wake Forest, which hosted a NCAA Super Regional this weekend, has opened a pipeline to New England with seven players on the roster from Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It will add another next season in center fielder Javar Williams, a New Bedford native who attends Tabor Academy in Marion. Braves lefthander Jared Shuster went from New Bedford to Tabor to Wake Forest to becoming a first-round pick in 2020 . . . The Athletics have run into issues trying to flee Oakland. Nevada lawmakers have yet to approve a bill that would give the team $380 million toward building a stadium in Las Vegas. The Athletics have been lobbying for the deal since February and a proposal was put forward in May, but legislators are understandably skeptical about owner John Fisher. The Athletics have proposed a 30,000-seat ballpark, which would be the smallest in the majors, and are selling the idea that tourists would make up the fan base. How do MLB owners see that as being a good thing for the game? . . . The Reds are appointment viewing now that 21-year-old Elly De La Cruz is on the roster. He was 4 for 11 with a double, triple, homer, stolen base, two runs scored, and two RBIs in his first three games . . . “It Ain’t Over” is now available to buy or rent on Apple TV, Prime Video, Vudu, and Xfinity. The documentary about Yogi Berra is a must for any baseball fan, not just fans of the Yankees. Despite his 10 World Series rings, Berra was an underrated player . . . With the addition of Albert Pujols as a special assistant to commissioner Rob Manfred, MLB now employs 13 former players in different capacities. Some of the positions are ceremonial, but Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Raul Ibañez, Adam Jones, Joe Martinez, Dan Otero, and Bo Porter are involved in baseball operations and on-field operations . . . NESN will broadcast four Cape Cod League games this season: Harwich at Orleans on Sunday at 5 p.m., Harwich at Falmouth on June 25 at 7 p.m., Hyannis at Falmouth on June 26 at 7 p.m., and the league All-Star Game on July 22 at 8 p.m. on tape delay. Jon Meterparel will call the games with former Chatham manager John Schiffner . . . Happy birthday to World Series champion Brock Holt, who is 35. Holt was acquired before the 2013 season, part of a six-player deal with the Pirates. Closer Joel Hanrahan, the focus of the deal, pitched in nine games for the Sox. Holt played 615 and 12 more in the postseason. He started games for the Sox at every position except pitcher and catcher and had a .715 OPS. Also, Garrett Whitlock is 27 Sunday.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him @PeteAbe.