The Boston Red Sox are enjoying one of their greatest regular seasons in franchise history, but they've hit a major snag.
The team has placed left-hander Chris Sale back on the 10-day disabled list this weekend with left shoulder inflammation.
Sale had just returned to the mound from a DL stint for the same shoulder issue on Aug. 12, collecting 12 strikeouts over five innings against the Baltimore Orioles. He reported no discomfort following the outing, and appeared back to his dominant ways.
"I'm not going to sit around and pout," Sale told Red Sox beat reporter Chris Mason. "I've got to keep my chin up. I'm on the best team that's ever walked this planet."
Sale is a serious contender for the American League Cy Young Award this season, recording a stellar 12-4 record with a 1.97 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 146 innings to this point. The southpaw has never won the award, despite being named a finalist several times.
"We have to take care of him," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about the decision to shut Sale down again. "This guy is very important to what we are trying to accomplish, and if he needs to skip one, two, three — whatever — we are willing to do that. He’ll be back. Like he said, he feels better than the last time we put him on the DL, so he’ll get his rest, we’ll go through treatment and we’ll go from there.”
The good news is the Red Sox hold a hearty 9 1/2-game lead over the New York Yankees for top spot in the American League East, which affords the team the luxury of resting him down the stretch. Still, it will be a tough balancing act to maintain Sale's health while achieving peak performance heading into the playoffs this October.
Sale predicts he'd pitch through the pain and discomfort right now if it were a playoff game, but that can't be sitting well with the Red Sox. The undisputed ace of the pitching staff, Sale would surely get the ball in the team's first playoff game, and be counted on to log big innings throughout the entire postseason.
The 29-year-old lefty finally got his first taste of the postseason last year, but struggled in two appearances, allowing nine earned runs and four homers in 9 2/3 innings. He had never qualified for the playoffs in seven previous seasons with the Chicago White Sox.
The Red Sox, who own baseball's best record with 88 wins and 37 losses, recalled right-hander Brandon Workman from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Sale on the roster.