One of Alex Cora’s core philosophies as manager has been to zealously guard the health of his players. That has particularly been the case with ace lefthander Chris Sale.
From the first day of spring training, the Red Sox were careful to restrict how often Sale threw, even in routine defensive drills.
Once the season started, Sale was given extra rest when possible and often has been limited to six innings or fewer than 100 pitches in his starts. The idea was to keep him effective deep into the season.
Sale flourished under the regimen, putting together what has been the best year of his career.
That’s why it was so surprising that Sale was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday with what was called “mild shoulder inflammation.”
Sale will miss his start against the Yankees on Thursday night. Lefthander Brian Johnson will start in his place.
But Sale does not expect to miss more than one start. The transaction was retroactive to Saturday, meaning he can return as soon as Aug. 7 in Toronto.
“I feel like if we were in a different position and push came to shove and they needed me to go out there, I would be able to make this next start,” Sale said. “I would be pitching in two days.
“Given we have a few months left in the season and fortunately for us we’re a deep team. Our guys, we trust everybody equally around here. So they thought it’d be best to have Brian step in and make that start.”
Still, any shoulder injury is troubling for a pitcher. Sale said the issue cropped up in his last few starts.
“Kind of normal soreness in the same general area,” he said. “It’s just a little bit more than I’m used to after a start and it just kind of built up.”
There’s been no evidence of that on the mound. Sale is 11-4 with a 2.04 earned run average, an 0.87 WHIP and 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
He is 6-1 with a 0.75 ERA in his last nine starts and has not allowed more than two runs since a start on June 1.
“There’s a little inflammation in there. So when he said something to them today they thought it was better that he not pitch rather than take a chance with that,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.
“They think they can calm it down quickly. But any time you have Chris Sale, you rather not have him miss a start. But we think it’s a short time period. We’ve had other guys do this in the past and come back real quickly.”
Sale was not sent for an MRI and is being treated by the team doctors.
“I’m optimistic this is going to be a very short stint on the DL. But it being the DL, people get kind of antsy,” Sale said. “But I’m not worried about it at all.”
Dombrowski suggested that the inflammation could be a product of Sale changing how he gripped his slider. But the pitcher shot that theory down.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with grips or mechanics or anything like that. I’m just a pitcher. Sometimes we have to deal with it,” he said.
Sale also was quick to push back against the notion that there was more than inflammation.
“If this was something more serious, I would tell you,” he said. “We’re not hiding anything. This is not something that we’re worried about. This is a concern at most.”
The Yankees also have an issue with their rotation. Lefthander J.A. Happ was diagnosed with a case of hand, foot and mouth disease and was sent home from the park on Tuesday.
Happ was not put on the DL and could make his start on Saturday at Fenway Park.
Sale only will be able to watch the big series.
“It’s not easy. I was pretty upset when the final decision was made,” he said. “At the end of the day, though, I’ve got to do what’s best for not only the team but for myself. I don’t think me going out there not at 100 percent is going to help us and I don’t think going out there and possibly risking something more severe would do any good either.
“It’s a pretty crappy situation to be in and I don’t like it at all. I’m a pitcher that pitches and I don’t like sitting on the sideline watching somebody else do my job for me.
“But it happens, you deal with it, keep your chin up, keep grinding, keep working and I’ll be back out there hopefully in Toronto.”