Chris Sale's reduced velocity may have been caused by stomach illness

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BOSTON —Chris Sale delivered a quality start in Oakland last Tuesday, but the lanky lefty-hander’s reduced velocity raised some red flags.

Sale’s average fastball velocity was a career-low 89.1 mph. Only 10 of his 25 fastballs were clocked at over 90 mph. 

That led to speculation that Sale’s shoulder may not be 100 percent. However, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Tuesday’s home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays that the ace actually was dealing with a stomach illness.

“[Sale] doesn’t like making excuses, but he only threw probably 50 throws in between starts. It wasn’t the belly-button thing, but right around there,” Cora said, referencing Sale’s bellybutton piercing joke from October. “It was bad for a while. I hate making excuses for my players, but there’s a reason for certain things, and the fact that he went out there and pitched, it tells me a lot about Chris. The way he competed, it was amazing, and I expect him to go out [Tuesday] and do the same thing.

“He spent a lot of time in the bathroom, let’s put it that way,” Cora added for good measure.

If Sale's velocity dip proves to be more than the result of a stomach bug, that could be troublesome. The Red Sox committed to Sale with a five-year, $145 million contract extension prior to the 2019 season.

Sale's performance in Tuesday’s home opener will be a good indicator of where the panic meter should be. Low velocity or not, he’ll look to have an outing more like his second start than his first, when he allowed seven runs in three innings to the Seattle Mariners.

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