Chris Sale to undergo Tommy John surgery

Chris Sale will be the ace of the pitching staff in 2020.
Chris Sale. –Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Red Sox announced Thursday evening left-handed pitcher Chris Sale will undergo ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery, also known as Tommy John surgery, on his left elbow.

The operation would keep Sale out the entire 2020 baseball season if and when it resumes after the coronavirus pandemic.

The news comes two weeks after the Red Sox said the 30-year-old left-hander had a flexor strain near the elbow. At the time, the Red Sox hoped Sale would avoid the operation that usually requires a full year to recover from.

Opening day, originally scheduled for next week, has been pushed back until at least mid-May due to the coronavirus outbreak. Sale missed the start of spring training with an illness that the team described as a flu that morphed into pneumonia.

A Red Sox spokesman did not immediately respond to an email asking if Sale has been tested for COVID-19.

After his illness set back his pitching schedule, he threw his first batting practice of the spring on March 4; a day later, he reported discomfort in his pitching elbow. The team said then there had been no additional damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, which was treated with a platelet-rich plasma injection in August.

“Tommy John’s been a factor in my life for 20 years now,” Sale said earlier this month. “It’s on the table, but it’s always been on the table. So, that’s not something I’m going to worry myself with. I can’t go out there with that in the back of my mind. I have to have the confidence that what we’re doing is going to work.”

Last season, Sale was placed on the 10-day injured list on August 17 (retroactive to August 14) with left elbow inflammation and missed the remainder of the season.

Sale is 109-73 in 10 major league seasons is entering the second season of a six-year, $160 million contract. After helping the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series, he went 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts last year, his fewest wins and starts and highest ERA in a full season since 2012.

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