Red Sox

Chris Sale is ‘just so freakin’ appreciative’ after making first MLB start in two years

Sale gave up two runs over five innings in his first MLB game back since having Tommy John surgery.

Chris Sale made sure to note the support he received from teammates following Saturday's game. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Chris Sale concluded one of the longest and most difficult journeys of his life on Saturday.

The Red Sox ace pitched in his first big-league game on Saturday since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020. Saturday’s start came two years and a day since Sale’s last MLB start in 2019.

Prior to Saturday’s game against the Orioles, Sale kept his message to his teammates simple.

“This was the end of the road, basically,” Sale told reporters. “I said it today when I got to the field: ‘I’m done driving on the dirt road, the rubber is meeting the asphalt today.’”


The end of his journey to return successfully from Tommy John surgery marked the beginning of his 2021 season. Sale knew the day was going to be special once he headed toward the mound at Fenway Park.

“When I stepped out of the dugout, I knew there was going to be something. I wasn’t expecting all that,” Sale said. “I was just trying to soak in moments. This isn’t going to last forever.”

While Boston’s bats gave most of the highlights in Saturday’s 16-2 drubbing of Baltimore (hitting five homers in the win), Sale was the headline by showing signs of his former self in the win. He tossed 89 pitches over five innings, allowing two runs and six hits but struck out eight hitters and didn’t allow a walk.

Sale looked comfortable from the start. He got a popout and strikeout in the first two hitters he faced and after allowing a single, he struck out Anthony Santander to end his first inning back.

The only trouble Sale had came in the third inning. After putting out the first two Orioles hitters, Sale gave up back-to-back solo shots to the top of Baltimore’s lineup.

Sale got back in a groove after that, getting seven of the next nine Orioles hitters out, striking out four of them. Once Sale returned to the Red Sox dugout following the fifth inning, he was greeted by a supportive Alex Cora and several teammates.


“That was everything to me. These guys have had my back since the jump, my family, too,” Sale said of the moment. “I’m very lucky and very fortunate — through all this, I’ve been able to realize that more. I had some bad days over the last couple years, but they don’t compare to a lot of people’s bad days. Perspective has helped me out a lot. Hell, I was on top of the world. I threw the last pitch of the (2018) World Series, show up to spring training, and sign this huge contract, and like that (it’s) gone. Clearly, I wasn’t expecting it.

“I’m just so freakin’ appreciative. I can’t think of anything else. My guys sending me text messages, giving me phone calls. … My teammates gave me life. This game was taken from me for two straight years. I realized how much I needed this game and needed my teammates and how they made me feel complete. I had a hole in my chest for two years and it sucked. For those guys to be there, it was a special moment.”

Even though Sale lasted just five innings and was pulled after 89 pitches, that was part of the plan. On Friday, Cora told reporters that they would treat Sale like he’s pitching at the beginning of the season, just looking to see him on the mound and not worrying too much about his “stuff.”


The Red Sox manager liked what he saw on Saturday.

“He’s in a good spot mentally, he’s in a great spot physically,” Cora said. “He’s ready to contribute, he just wants to be part of something special. This is what he asked for in the offseason, and in spring training: he just wanted to pitch meaningful innings. And he already gave us five.”

Now that the two-year process of getting back to the majors is behind him, Sale can look forward to helping the Red Sox make a push for the playoffs.

“To be here now, I just keep saying, I’m so appreciative. I put in a lot of work. A lot of people around me put in a lot of work,” Sale said. “This was a lot of stress for a lot of people, and a lot of hard work had to go in for me to be able to do this tonight. It was a long time, almost two years on the dot. I don’t really do too well with waiting around and not holding my end of the slack. All that stuff is in the rearview mirror now, and I’m just appreciative that I’m here now and get to roll.”

Sale is scheduled to take the mound again on Friday, when the Red Sox host the Rangers.


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