WORCESTER – There were still three hours until the first pitch of the Worcester Red Sox’s game with Lehigh Valley, but a crowd gathered around the reliever pen on Friday afternoon.
Some players leaned against the wall and others stood in the stands, looking down to watch the next step in Chris Sale’s rehab.
The Red Sox ace, returning from Tommy John’s surgery, threw 45 shots at Triple-A receiver Jett Bandy and was pleased with the results.
“It was good,” said Sale wearing a WooSox No.54 jersey with the team’s smiling logo on his precious left arm. “Being able to throw all of my throws aggressively helps me a lot.”
The plan was to simulate the preparation of a start and a round of work. Sale threw five warm-up pitches and pitched an inning with standing batters in shuffle pitches. Doesn’t sound like much. But he said he enjoyed every step forward.
“It’s all part of getting back to normal. Even against the hitters. There’s a difference between throwing the mound at a batter and having someone in there, ”said Sale, who asked for feedback from the Worcester players after the outing. “Obviously being able to bounce ideas off these guys. “What was it like? Did you see anything? Tips? Hitters can see as much as anyone. Where I was a few months ago, it means the world to me. I enjoy what I do and how I do it more than ever. Just being able to throw a mound is fantastic for me.
Boston manager Alex Cora was in Kansas City but had previously received a report on Sale from coach Brad Pearson, who stayed on to watch Sale and Tanner Houck, who started for Worcester on Thursday.
“It was a good one. He warmed up to start, then threw a “round,” Cora said. “He told me two days ago that Friday is like a competition like it’s a start. Everything went well. They felt very comfortable with the way he was throwing the ball. Obviously its mechanics and all that. This is another step in a long process. We try not to be too excited because we are trying to be patient. But at the same time, we have the right to get excited. He’s progressing as we envisioned and we know he’s going to play a big part in what we’re trying to accomplish later in the season.
With the Boston Red Sox on the road, Sale trains every day at Polar Park. Friday was his second bullpen, but he also used the weight room. He said he enjoyed being around baseball players and could see the players become more comfortable talking to him.
“Being with the guys from Boston, being with these guys, it means a lot to me,” Sale said. “I was also with these guys in spring training. We actually had some great conversations today in the weight room before we stretched out. Talk to Tanner about his early days. He and I operate very similarly when it comes to mechanics and our trim lines. Talking shop. It’s part of the feeling and being a baseball player and rediscovering that camaraderie. “
Sale has another bullpen session scheduled for Tuesday. Beyond that, he doesn’t know. It’s by design.
“They don’t tell me much. They know who I am and how I operate, ”Sale said. “I like the information as brief as possible. I can’t aim too much. It is not good for anyone in this process. I’m just enjoying things at this point. I’m happy with what we did today. I want to go home and come back tomorrow and start all over again.
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