Why a Rockies scout loved seeing Chris Sale dominate Colorado
As Chris Sale mowed down one Rockies hitter after another in a game that Colorado nonetheless managed to win on Tuesday night, one man had unique perspective on the contest.
Rockies area scouting supervisor John Cedarburg could take personal satisfaction not only because the organization for which he works won, but also because of his connection to Sale, who finished with 17 strikeouts in seven innings Tuesday. In 2007, Cedarburg scouted Sale and convinced the Rockies to take him in the 21st round.
Though Sale didn’t sign, the memories of scouting the lefthander at Lakeland High School in Florida remain clear. Cedarburg saw a pitcher with pedestrian velocity — Sale threw mostly in the mid 80s, and only cracked 90 in his spring of his senior year — but who had a live, loose arm, a fastball/changeup/slider combination, and character traits that suggested growth potential. Perhaps, Cedarburg thought, he could emerge as a No. 5 starter — a ceiling that, in the 21st round, would represent an enormous coup for an organization.
But certainly, Cedarburg never would have imagined what Sale became.
“Did I think he was going to be able to throw 98? No way,” said Cedarburg. “I thought maybe he’d have an average fastball one day, and back then an average fastball was 88-91.”
The Rockies and Cedarburg thought there was a chance that Sale would sign. Colorado offered the pitcher $125,000. He considered it, but when the Rockies wouldn’t bump up that offer, he elected to go to Florida Gulf Coast University. It ended up being a great decision for Sale, who gained strength and flexibility in college while also changing his arm slot from a traditional delivery to his current low-three-quarters release — something that improved his velocity and movement.
Cedarburg, who lives in Fort Myers (where FGCU is located), quickly became aware during Sale’s breakout sophomore year that Sale was going to blow past his most optimistic projections.
“He just popped. It was like, ‘Wow, look at that — unbelievable,’ ” recalled Cedarburg. “That’s a credit to Chris himself and coach [Dave Tollett] and the FGCU baseball program for what they did with him.”
For Cedarburg, Sale’s transformation after high school is less the subject of disappointment than a commentary on the difficulty of scouting and projecting high school pitchers. Cedarburg and the Rockies seemingly liked the pitcher more than any organization when he was in high school, yet even their most optimistic projections came very short of Sale’s eventual performance.
Now, Cedarburg sees both Sale and his father, Allen, at events around Fort Myers, and remains on good terms with the family. He could watch the lefthander dominate his team and describe the spectacle as “a beautiful thing.”
“I’d love to see the Rockies and the Red Sox in the World Series this year,” said Cedarburg.
Reliever Brandon Workman, who was charged with a blown save when he gave up a two-run homer in the eighth inning on Tuesday, was unavailable to take questions while the clubhouse was open to the media following the loss. Manager Alex Cora said that he doesn’t want his players to duck questions after a bad game.
“We always say that players have to be responsible, transparent, and accountable,” said Cora. “I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
In contrast, Cora took some amusement at Sale’s suggestion that he had opened the door for the Rockies’ comeback by allowing a two-run homer in the seventh to Nolan Arenado.
“If that’s on him, I don’t know. Blame the manager, I guess,” said Cora. “[But] he’s accountable and he’s transparent and that’s the type of player you want . . . We’re very proud of him and looking forward for him to pitch on Sunday [against the Astros] and see what happens.”
Rick Porcello will get the start on Friday against Houston, while Hector Velazquez is the likely Saturday starter.
Sale, meanwhile, became only the second pitcher in major league history with at least 14 strikeouts and no walks over consecutive starts.
Dwight Gooden of the Mets was the first. As a 19-year-old rookie in 1984, Gooden struck out 16 Pirates on Sept. 12 without a walk, then struck out 16 Phillies on Sept. 17, also without a walk.
Gooden beat the Pirates with a two-hit shutout. But he took the loss against the Phillies, giving up two runs on seven hits over eight innings.
Sale had 31 strikeouts over 15 innings. Gooden had 32 over 17.
Plan for Price
While the Red Sox had given thought to activating David Price from the injured list this weekend against the Astros, they’ll instead have the lefthander throw a bullpen session on Friday in advance of his anticipated activation against the Blue Jays next week. Cora said that weather and a desire to have Price throw multiple bullpen sessions before his return to the rotation determined that schedule . . . Dustin Pedroia worked out with the team on Wednesday and will do so again on Thursday, at which point the team will determine whether he’s ready for another rehab assignment . . . Lefthander Brian Johnson allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out a batter in 1⅔ innings for Triple A Pawtucket on Wednesday, his first game action since suffering swelling and tendinitis in his left elbow on April 7. He breezed through a perfect inning before laboring in the second. Barring a setback, he’ll continue getting stretched out with a three- or four-inning outing next week . . . Brock Holt started a rehab assignment (his third since going on the injured list on April 8) with Pawtucket, serving as the DH. He went 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts, a walk, and a ground out.