FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will start the season on the injured list, manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday.
Sale, who reported to camp with pneumonia and is behind schedule, will be placed on the 15-day injured list and will remain in Fort Myers for extended spring training when the team breaks camp.
“With the sickness, it cost him two weeks’ time and that two weeks is what we’d like to give him to make sure that he’s right,” Roenicke said. “He’s worked hard on getting his arm right and we didn’t think four starts in spring training was fair to him.”
It has been a rough few months for the Red Sox, who fired manager Alex Cora for his role in the Astros’ sign stealing scandal. Boston, which is still waiting to find out what punishments MLB will levy against them, also has quarantined two players because of concerns about the coronavirus.
As for Sale, he ended last season on the injured list with elbow inflammation, making his last appearance Aug. 13 at Cleveland, where he gave up five runs with 12 strikeouts in 6 ⅔ innings. Roenicke emphasized this trip to the injured list is not related to Sale’s elbow.
“Nothing at all with the arm, he’s doing really good with that,” Roenicke said. “We’re really happy with that. This is strictly for missing two weeks and only being able to get four starts in spring training.”
Sale said he agrees with the IL decision even though he’s not happy about it.
“It was a gut punch,” he said. “When we were in that meeting, I said, ‘The only thing this hurts is my ego, and that doesn’t matter.’”
He said the good news is that his arm is doing well.
“That’s kind of the frustrating part for me is I feel like I’ve hit the checkmarks, I’ve done the things I need to do, and I feel good. I feel really good,” he said. “So, we just need to keep building from there.”
The Red Sox open the season March 26 in Toronto, with the home opener April 2 against the White Sox. Roenicke said Sale will be eligible to be activated on April 7, when the Red Sox host the Rays.
Sale is scheduled to throw live batting practice Saturday. Roenicke would like the starting pitchers to make six spring starts before starting a regular season game. If Sale remains on schedule, he could make four spring starts, with the remaining two either in extended spring, a camp game, or a minor league game.
Sale went 6-11 last season with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts, the fewest in his career for a full season since 2012. This is his third stint on the injured list with Boston. He also missed about a month near the end of the 2018 season before returning to help Boston win the World Series.
Boston has several pitchers in camp trying to win the fifth spot on the rotation that opened when left-hander David Price was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Mookie Betts. Now, Roenicke has two spots to fill before opening day. Boston had been considering an opener for the fifth spot.
With Sale out, Boston’s likely opening day starter will be left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who led the rotation last season, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA in a major league-best 34 starts.