Alex Cora explains key to fixing struggling ace Chris Sale

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There are plenty of reasons to be concerned with the scuffling Red Sox, but reason No. 1 arguably is Chris Sale's ongoing struggles.

The Red Sox ace admitted after his last uninspiring start that he's never felt this lost on the mound in his life. Some of that may have to do with his reduced fastball velocity, but manager Alex Cora believes it has more to do with the ineffectiveness of his secondary pitches.

"I do feel the off-speed pitch is not there. The slider is not there. You can see it. It has been inconsistent through the three starts,” Cora said during his weekly appearance on WEEI's “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria". “In Oakland, he used the changeup a lot and got a lot of fly balls and he survived for six innings. What a way to survive, one run in six innings. The last one here, he made some good pitches down and in to righties, but all the singles were like up and away. He didn’t get crushed. He didn’t get hit hard. … It wasn’t a home run thing, but if you look at the whole thing, velocity was a little better — 91, 92, a few 95s, — but the slider hasn’t been consistent. When he gets that slider, that is when he becomes the pitcher that he knows he can become. Everybody talks about velocity, I do feel it is more about the off-speed stuff because that slider is one of the best in the game when he’s right.”

Cora also called Sale's off-speed pitches and his slider "inconsistent" after Tuesday's home opener vs. Toronto and said the left-hander simply "wasn't able to put hitters away."

Before that game, Cora said Sale's reduced velocity during his start in Oakland was caused by a stomach illness. While his velocity improved slightly vs. the Blue Jays, his results did not as he allowed five runs in four innings.

Sale's next opportunity to return to ace form likely will be Tuesday when the Red Sox visit the Yankees.

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