John Tomase

The one Chris Sale question that's most concerning has no easy answer

Sale underwent a second MRI on his injured shoulder on Thursday.

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BOSTON -- Chris Sale is throwing again, about two weeks sooner than he expected after suffering a stress reaction in his shoulder blade on June 2. Maybe we'll see him at full strength again. Maybe the rest of this season will play out like so many others, marked by frustrating setbacks that leave him effectively sidelined.

The question on my mind when Sale finally met the media Thursday to provide an update on his status was a little different. Forget about his rehab progression or when he might return โ€“ given the fact that he has broken a rib and now a scapula while pitching, is he concerned that there might be something physiological predisposing him to these rare injuries?

"I just kind of take them for what they are," Sale said. "Just weird ticky-tacky things that you can't really do much about."

That's the scary part, that maybe there's nothing he can do about it. Sale has actually broken four bones since returning from Tommy John surgery. He fractured a rib while throwing on Instagram Live during last year's lockout, he broke a finger on a comebacker last August, he broke his wrist after falling off his bike last September, and now the shoulder.

The contact injuries are one thing. But the rib and shoulder are so freakish as to be borderline unprecedented. Sale said the club found a couple of examples of pitchers suffering his latest injury, but he declined to elaborate.

Instead, he's focused on the baby steps of rehab. He noted that he's just happy to be throwing, even if it's "nothing groundbreaking." He had been working out with the team and lifting weights.

"Not exactly what this thing is built for," he said, while pointing to his skinny 6-foot-6 frame. "But hey, it could always be worse."

Sale is running out of time to deliver even one season of value on the five-year, $145 million extension that runs through next season. He has made just 22 starts since shutting it down in August of 2019, but half of them have come this season. After a slow start, Sale caught fire in late April. He's 5-2 with a 4.58 ERA overall, but he went 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA over his final six starts leading into the injury.

Now he's starting over, and it's fair to wonder if his body will ever let him be himself again as we wonder when he might return.

"I threw a baseball for the first time in four weeks today," he said. "I'm in a pretty good mood, so I'll leave that to all of them. They're the ones that put the programs together, timetables, all that stuff. I just show up and do what I'm told at this point.

"My shoulder feels good, my elbow feels great. First time getting to throw in a long time and obviously the anticipation, the excitement, it's hard to throttle back. But at the same time, this is a process. If you're going to run a marathon, you don't just go out there and run 20 miles on Day 1, you build up to that. I've got to trust the process, respect my body, and just go through it."

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