By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s not very often that a team can toss the defending Cy Young winner on Opening Day, and then hand the ball to another Cy Young contender a few days later.
But that’s the luxury the Boston Red Sox get to enjoy this season, thanks to Dave Dombrowski’s winter acquisition of Chris Sale.
The Red Sox will play their second ace on Wednesday night, when Sale makes his Boston debut in front of the Fenway faithful against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He received a standing ovation when he was introduced during pre-game ceremonies on Monday, and will hear another when he takes the mound for the first time in a Red Sox uniform.
But Sale isn’t here to receive standing ovations or talk about what could be; he’s here to win every fifth day. The soft spoken but fiery lefty declined to discuss his upcoming start on Boston’s off-day on Tuesday, instead focusing on what he needs to accomplish on the mound. Expect this to be the norm with Sale.
His new manager, however, had plenty to say about the five-time All-Star.
“Any time you can send Chris Sale to the mound, you’re feeling pretty good about your chances,” John Farrell told reporters on Tuesday. “The strikeout-to-walk ratio tells you that there is such above-average strike-throwing ability with premium stuff. Three quality pitches and a competitive spirit that is evident.”
That strikeout-to-walk ratio is pretty darn impressive. At 4.78, it’s better than anything anyone has done in nearly 140 years. It’s better than current fireballers Clayton Kershaw (4.037) and Madison Bumgarner (4.32). It’s better than Red Sox great and Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez (4.15) and his former rotation mate Curt Schilling (4.38). Schilling is third on the all-time list, behind only Sale and Tommy Bond (5.03), who last toed the rubber in 1884, when overhand pitching was first allowed in baseball and mustaches were a requirement (only one of those two statements are true).
That’s somewhat fitting, considering Sale’s slingshot sidearm delivery. It’s a delivery that causes some concern for the 28-year-old’s long-term health, but one that has baffled hitters for the last five seasons. Sale led the AL with 274 strikeouts in 2015, and followed it up with 233 whiffs last season when he tied his career-high with 17 wins for the White Sox.
But forget about the past, no matter how great it has been for Sale. Wednesday marks a new chapter for one of baseball’s best pitchers, his first start for his new team, one with World Series aspirations. Sale hasn’t said too much leading up to his Red Sox debut, and when he did talk to reporters during Spring Training, he was always focusing on the things he needed to do better.
The man simply wants to win whenever his team calls on him to take the mound, which Red Sox fans already appreciate. While he isn’t one for a lot of words, Sale will let his pitching do the talking on Wednesday.