Alex Cora says Chris Sale looks ‘really good’ but won’t set timetable for Red Sox return

Sale is apparently "closer" to throwing off a mound for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last year.

Chris Sale Red Sox
Chris Sale throws a pitch against the Cleveland Indians in 2019. –Tony Dejak/AP

The American League-leading Boston Red Sox, to the surprise of many, look like one of the best teams in baseball so far in 2021.

Manager Alex Cora suggested Wednesday that the team could get even stronger by the end of the year thanks to the return of its ace, Chris Sale.

Cora spoke glowingly on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria Show of Sale’s rehab from Tommy John surgery at the team’s Spring Training site in Fort Meyers Florida. When asked how he feels about the 31-year-old left-hander’s progress, Cora replied, “Really good.”

“I had a good conversation with him two days ago. The way he threw the ball his last flat-ground was very good, very aggressive,” he added.

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The Sox manager declined to give a more specific timetable for Sale, who had surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow last March, to return to the Red Sox. The hard-throwing southpaw has not yet thrown off a mound, though Cora said Sale told him he’s “getting closer” to doing so.

Sale was originally scheduled to begin pitching off a mound in January, but neck stiffness and a positive case of COVID-19 postponed those plans.

The Red Sox starting staff has managed admirably without him so far, ranking fourth in the league in fielder-independent pitching (FIP; 3.21) and tied for third in wins above replacement (WAR) with the Chicago White Sox. Nathan Eovaldi has thrown the ball like an ace himself this season, and Eduardo Rodriguez has been solid in his own return to the rotation after opting out of last season with myocarditis.

When asked if the team’s success could speed up Sale’s timeline for returning, Cora said he’s more inclined to take the opposite approach.

“The more you win, the more patient you are,” he said. “We have to be patient.”

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