One day after he lasted just four innings and pitched with diminished velocity in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros, Red Sox lefthander Chris Sale reported a stomach illness on Sunday afternoon and was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital for observation, the team announced. Sale was slated to remain at MGH overnight for further evaluation.
Sale also had a startling lack of command during stretches of his Game 1 start, in which his four-seam fastball averaged 92.0 miles per hour and he walked four batters (tied for his most in any outing as a member of the Red Sox) while hitting another with a pitch. Still, pitching coach Dana LeVangie identified the source of Sale’s struggles as being chiefly related to his lack of a consistent arm slot and mechanics — a product, LeVangie suggested, of altered work between starts rather than a physical issue.
After Sale threw an inning out of the bullpen in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Yankees, he didn’t play catch on Wednesday or Thursday. His work to establish his timing and arm slot on Friday came on flat ground.
“We’re trying to conserve bullets, throw less leading up to his starts or innings. Sometimes you lose feel a little bit of where the right slot is because you’re trying to conserve,’’ said LeVangie. “It’s about timing and finding that consistent slot right now, because he’s not allowed to do as much throwing. We’re trying to take care of everything and make sure he’s able to take the ball when we need him to.
“[Sale is searching for] the right feel, the right delivery. Health-wise, he’s doing fine, but we’re also trying to make sure that what he does pregame doesn’t affect him. It’s a balance that we’re trying to figure out.’’
LeVangie did acknowledge that Sale, like most pitchers in October, might not be feeling his best, but the pitching coach didn’t see a physical issue that should interfere with Sale’s ability to pitch.
“We’re just at the time where you’ve got to go out there and compete, gut it out,’’ said LeVangie. “Not everyone is feeling their best right now. That’s the way it is.’’
Those remarks were made on Sunday afternoon, about four hours before the Red Sox’ announcement of Sale’s hospitalization. While LeVangie said at the time that there weren’t any physical concerns that would jeopardize another start by the lefthander, it remains to be seen whether his stomach illness alters that outlook.