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Chris Sale needs Tommy John surgery, dooming Boston Red Sox

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Before the 2010 draft, the Chicago White Sox held a long internal discussion about Florida Gulf Coast pitcher Chris Sale. They loved his stuff and his competitiveness, but there was worry about how he might hold up. Sale was skinny and threw with an awkward arm action in which he raised his throwing elbow at or above shoulder height, a red flag for most pitching observers because it causes a “late load” of the baseball that first strains the shoulder and then the elbow.

White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams once told me he went around the room asking the opinions of those he considered pitching experts and medical and training personnel. The verdict: Sale’s mechanics put him “right on the borderline” of a potential breakdown.

Chicago pulled the trigger. It drafted Sale 13th overall. The Sox were richly rewarded. Sale made the All-Star team all five years he pitched out of the White Sox rotation before the club flipped him to Boston for Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada.

It took 10 years, but now Sale is broken. He needs Tommy John surgery, which puts him out until midseason of 2021. Sale turns 31 on March 30.

This breakdown came with multiple warning signs, especially over the past three years as Sale withered physically. It was during that time that the Red Sox gave him a five-year, $145 million extension—a contract that begins only this year and, when you think about how Boston was motivated to get under the luxury tax threshold this year, helped push Mookie Betts out of Boston. It is yet another reminder that investing in pitchers, especially outlier throwers, is riskier than playing the stock market.


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