The Red Sox have received some enormous news on Monday, when Chris Sale visited with orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews to review his problematic throwing elbow.
Sale’s original diagnosis of inflammation in his elbow was confirmed by Dr. Andrews, who administered a platelet-rich plasma injection.
“Dr. Andrews also recommended a period of shutdown from throwing,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. “Sale will be re-evaluated in six weeks by Dr. Andrews.”
With only six weeks left in the 2019 regular season, that would put Sale on the outside looking in this year and instead shift focus to 2020.
The good news, though, is that no Tommy John surgery was planned.
Sale is likely to talk publicly about his elbow for the first time on Tuesday. He did not speak to reporters immediately after he was placed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday because he was evidently distraught over the injury and wanted some time to review his options.
The 30-year-old first felt his elbow get stiff on Wednesday after making a start against the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night. The stiffness did not fade by Friday, when he informed the team of the issue.
An MRI revealed inflammation that was not present during a physical review in spring training, when the Sox signed him to a five-year contract extension worth $145 million.
Sale also dealt with shoulder inflammation last year, but had never before in his career been placed on the injured list for elbow problems.
The Sox may have little incentive to push their ace to a quick recovery, given their longshot odds at making the playoffs. They entered Monday 6½ games back of the Rays for the second wild card spot and are also chasing the A’s, who are just one game behind the Rays.
Both Sale and David Price are on the injured list, though Price, who is dealing with a cyst on his throwing wrist and received a shot to relieve the pain, threw a bullpen session on Saturday and could return to the rotation soon.
The news of Sale’s elbow not needing immediate Tommy John surgery was surely met with exuberance from those in the Red Sox’ front office, who will soon begin making moves intended to help the team improve in 2020, their last season with Mookie Betts under team control.
It’s already going to be tight from a financial standpoint.
Sale is due to receive a raise of double his salary to $30 million next year, the first of his five-year extension. Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and Brandon Workman, among others, are also set to receive big raises due to salary arbitration and, in Bogaerts’ case, a new contract.
All together, raises from current Red Sox players are expected to be right around $52 million. Similarly, the Sox will save $52.5 million in salary next year of players who are coming off the books.
Rick Porcello, Mitch Moreland, Steve Pearce, Brock Holt and Andrew Cashner are among those who will be free agents after 2019. And the Sox will finally stop paying Pablo Sandoval, who will get a $5 million buyout but will no longer be paid a salary by the team.
The Sox were already up against the third tier of the luxury tax threshold this year with a payroll close to $246 million. The luxury tax threshold will increase by only $2 million in 2020, leaving the Red Sox hardly any flexibility as they look toward future plans.
Rafael Devers’ astounding season continued on Monday, when he was named the American Player of the Week.
Devers hit .593 with a 1.185 OPS in a week that included seven doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs, including his 100th of the season as he became the first player to reach 100 RBIs this season.
His big week included a 6-for-6 game against the Indians on Tuesday, when he became the first player in MLB history to have four doubles amidst a six-hit game.
The Red Sox released their spring training schedule on Monday and will kick off play in Fort Myers, Fla., with their annual game against Northeastern University on Friday, Feb. 21.
They play their first home game against the Yankees at JetBlue Park on Saturday, Feb. 29. They’ll wrap up their spring training schedule on March 24 against the Braves.
The regular season begins March 26 in Toronto.