Red Sox ace Chris Sale needs Tommy John surgery. That ends speculation dating to late last season that he would need the procedure.
So that is now known. But it sure created many unknowns:
Unknown No. 1, when will he have the procedure? To better cope with the coronavirus pandemic, many hospitals have scratched nonessential surgeries until the health care system is less overwhelmed. The Red Sox, in announcing Sale needs the procedure, did not state a date for the surgery. Maybe he still will get it soon and the Red Sox just didn’t want to announce that and look insensitive or overprivileged in these difficult times. Or perhaps Sale has to wait a while (months?).
Unknown No. 2, when will Sale return? The normal return to action for a starting pitcher is about 15 months. So that would be a few months into the 2021 season. But that is assuming Sale undergoes surgery in the coming days. The ramifications of the coronavirus could change that.
Unknown No. 3, is this the best time to have the procedure? Correct answer: There is no best time for surgery. But Sale was moving toward this moment. He missed the last six weeks of 2019 with left elbow inflammation. He reported pain soon after facing hitters for the first time on March 1 and was diagnosed with a flexor strain, was told to rest 10-14 days and a recurrence of pain led to the Tommy John reality.
But if you are going to miss a season how about a time when — at best — it appears there is going to be a shortened schedule (if there is a season at all) and the Red Sox already were going to be challenged to contend? Even with trading Mookie Betts, Boston’s problems were in the rotation with David Price gone in the same trade and Rick Porcello having left in free agency. With Sale now out, Boston’s rotation is Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez and fill-in-the-blank without much pitching near ready in the farm system.
Unknown No. 4, how much will Sale earn? The five-year, $145 million extension he signed last spring was set to begin in 2020. Sale was due $30 million this year with $10 million deferred and there are questions that MLB and the Players Association continue to work through about how pay and deferrals will be handled (among many other things) if games are lost this year.