The Red Sox have announced it Chris Sale “underwent an open reduction and internal fixation of a left fifth finger proximal phalanx fracture” today. Although the timeline is not crystal clear at the moment, the team believes it is still possible for Sale to return later this year. (Twitter links from Chris Cotillo from MassLive and Chad Jennings from The Athletic.)
Yesterday, Sale had to leave his start against the Yankees without getting out of the first half after a comebacker hit his hand and managed to injure it. The Red Sox later announced that the pinky finger, or “left fifth finger,” was broken. After the match, Sale himself said he expected to miss 4-6 weeks, although the fact that surgery was needed increases the potential for a longer recovery time may be needed.
In a longer look at the problem, Cotillo talks to orthopedic surgeon Chris Geary, who believes that Sale will not even be able to pick up a ball in 4-6 weeks. This means that it will be the end of August before Sale can start throwing bullpen sessions at all, which would not give him much time to go on a rehabilitation mission and get back in shape, especially considering that he had just returned from another injury. . After being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his chest in the spring, he missed the first months of the season and only recently returned, with a fresh start, followed by the start where his finger was broken.
Although the club believe Sale may still return at some point, they may have to operate on the condition that his season is over, at least from a rotation perspective. Ramping up against shorter stints out of the bullpen would not take as much time as returning to a full starter’s workload, which would make it easier for Sale to return as a reliever.
The club has been particularly snake-bitten in the rotation lately, with Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, Connor Seabold and Josh Winckowski everyone has landed on the injury list in the last three weeks. With Sale sure to join them, it will leave Boston with a rotation of Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta and Cutter Crawford comes out of the All-Star break. James Paxton is still working back from the Tommy John operation in April 2021, but has not yet started a rehabilitation assignment. Garrett Whitlock was in rotation earlier this year, but just returned from his own IL stay as a replacement and is not fully extended. Prospectus Brayan Bello made a couple of starts recently, but allowed nine earned runs in eight innings.
These struggles in the rotation have coincided with a slip in the position. Since June 26, they have gone 6-14 and gone to two games behind the Blue Jays for the last American League Wild Card place. The deadline for trading on August 2 is now a little over two weeks away, and they will certainly have to consider adding some arms, even if some of their injured throws manage to get back on the ground. Although they slip further over the coming weeks, it can affect how aggressive they are willing to be.