May 18, 2019

Sale Battled Toe Injury In Spring Training

Now it can be told ...

Chris Sale had a toe injury during spring training, which was the reason for the Red Sox's plan for a slow build-up to full strength. (So perhaps the team was not clueless when it came to Sale's light spring training load. Maybe they knew exactly what was going on and how to deal with it.)

Pitching coach Dana LeVangie told Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic:
Chris' spring training was different. We tried to do the exact same things we did last year ... [but] he had a little bit of a toe injury that slowed him down a little bit, so there were some things that led up to the early-on stuff. I basically felt like he was going through his spring training, sort of in April.
From The Athletic:
In video from his first start in Seattle [Opening Day, March 28], Sale's arm and elbow appear almost parallel to the ground before delivery.

"We just had a conversation about what his arm path was doing, and how it was maybe affecting his release point, his pitch mix and all the above," LeVangie said. "We wanted a cleaner line going back, rather than straight behind him and it didn't allow him to work more back to front in his delivery."

By his 17-strikeout performance, his arm path had been tweaked slightly.

"Now his momentum is working toward the catcher in the best possible way, his extension is back, pitch mix is far better and it doesn't allow the hitter to see the ball for so long," LeVangie said.

According to The Athletic's analytics guru Eno Sarris, Sale improved his extension (how close to the plate he releases the ball) by an inch. While that doesn't seem like a whole lot, in baseball terms it's significant. ...

After posting an 8.50 ERA in those first four starts, when batters were hitting .311 with a .943 OPS against him, Sale slowly implemented the adjustments suggested by LeVangie, assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson. Over the next five starts, he posted a 1.91 ERA and limited batters to a .157 average and .537 OPS. In three starts this month, he's struck out 41 batters and walked one.

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