Because he's skinny and has an unorthodox-looking delivery, left-hander Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox frequently is said to be walking a fine line between dominance and needing a new elbow ligament. So when Sale came up sore after his most recent start, a 127-pitch effort against the Boston Red Sox this past week, and later went on the disabled list, White Sox's fans worst fears seemed on the verge of becoming real.
But the preliminary read on Sale's MRI has the ligament in his elbow looking "excellent," general manager Rick Hahn said, via CSN Chicago:
“We believe we are dealing with a flexor mass strain of the muscle of his left arm. Similar to what we dealt with coincidentally in Detroit two years ago as well as a little bit last year actually. So, at this point, we figured we are much better off having him miss the start here in Detroit and miss the start against Tampa Bay and then re-evaluate. Hopefully the recovery from this goes as smoothly as the last couple of times we’ve dealt with this and he’s able to take the ball when his 15 days are up.”
That sound you might hear is the South Side of Chicago weeping with joy. "It's not Tommy John! It's not Tommy John!"
Sale's chart over at Brooks Baseball shows a noticeable and uncharacteristic dip in his velocity, along with an unusual lack of consistent command against the Red Sox. Sale was effective in terms of runs allowed, but he also was all over the place, with his pitch speed and location. A possible warning sign of an injury. And here one is. At least it's not a torn UCL. With the spate of Tommy John surgeries in this and recent seasons around MLB, Sale's surgery seemed even more inevitable. Perhaps it still does.
Sale already had established himself as one of the best pitchers in the league the past two seasons, and with a 2.30 ERA, 29 strikeouts and only 16 hits allowed in four starts so far, he was proving it again. The White Sox obviously cannot afford to lose him. Even if they had the worst team in the league, they couldn't afford it, because Sale is worth watching every time he plays.
"It’s something we have dealt with before and you just don’t want to take any chances,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Get him some rest and get him healthy.”
Yeah, that also might be something for Robin, himself, to think about the next time Sale is poised to throw 120-something pitches in April. Or maybe ever.
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