After undergoing Tommy John surgery on March 30 and with nothing else to do but stay home, Sale is counting down the days until his cast comes off.
Sale, speaking with the media in a conference call for the first time since the operation, said he is “feeling good” after having his ulnar collateral ligament repaired. He hopes the circumstances allow him to rehab at the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida, which is close to his offseason residence.
“I don’t know if there’s going to be a safe way to get in there and do my rehab,” Sale said. “But worst case, I can do it at my house. I’ve been provided some different things for working out and rehabbing obviously my elbow. The first couple of weeks is light stuff anyways, basically working on flexion and extension. I try to do most of that over FaceTime and kind of doing stuff from my house.”
Sale expressed a sense of relief about having the procedure on his left elbow. Amid the worst season of his career — he posted a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts — Sale received a platelet-rich plasma injection from Dr. James Andrews, temporarily avoiding surgery.
Sale acknowledged that Tommy John surgery was always a possibility during his career, and he said he avoided going under the knife until he felt all other options had been explored.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom previously said the team expects Sale’s recovery to last around 14 to 15 months, a typical recovery timeline.
“I didn’t want to jump the gun and get surgery because it’s available,” Sale said. “I wanted to make sure that this was something that needed to be done.”
Sale entered spring training believing he had a clean slate of health, throwing baseballs without pain until one of his first competitive sessions with batters. Previous games of catch and high-effort bullpens did not inflame his elbow, but tightness started developing again when Sale started facing off against live batters.
“I really thought I was in the clear,” said Sale, who was beginning the first year of his five-year, $145 million extension that he signed after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2018. “I was ripping this thing. I was getting after it. I had all the confidence in the world coming into spring training that my arm was going to be as good, if not better, than it has been my entire career.”
One day, however, Sale woke up and couldn’t move his arm. The decision to undergo Tommy John fell into his lap. When Dr. Andrews made the decision to suspend performing Tommy John surgeries because of the coronavirus pandemic, Sale worked with Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles, coordinating with the UCLA medical staff to ensure that the elective operation would have no effect on the hospital systems amid the flood of patients going to hospitals across the country.
He also was aware of the criticism about undergoing an elective procedure during a pandemic.
“At the end of the day, a virus is much more important than fixing my bum elbow,” Sale said. “Dr. ElAttrache made that point many times to me that we have to do this the right way. I even got tested for the virus once I got out there. It came back negative. That was a big deal for us, that this was the right thing to do at the right time and it wouldn’t affect anybody else that was suffering.”
Sale has leaned on teammates Nathan Eovaldi — who’s undergone two Tommy John surgeries — and relievers Brandon Workman and Ryan Brasier for guidance on making it through the rehab process for the procedure. The quarantine will allow Sale to put all of his focus and energy into making sure his rehab process goes as smoothly as possible.
“I have nothing else going on,” Sale said. “I can focus 100% of my time and effort on this to come back as good as I can. I owe that to my team, my teammates and to the fans. I’m sitting out a year and the team put its faith in me to pitch at the highest level for five more years. And at best, I’m only going to give them four. For me, I take a lot of pride in what I do and don’t take it lightly. I have a chip on my shoulder. I guess I have one in my elbow, too.”