By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox finally get another “Sale Day” on Tuesday, though this is more like time one of those quick “flash sales” that are gone before you know they existed.
Chris Sale is set to return to the Red Sox rotation as Boston opens a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, but the ace won’t be around for very long. Making just his second start since July due to left shoulder inflammation, Sale will be Boston’s “opener,” slated to toss two innings or 40 pitches, whichever comes first.
While a two-inning start by an ace pitcher would normally elicit more concern than excitement, Tuesday night is a pretty big one for Sale and the Red Sox. His lingering shoulder issue has caused him to make more trips to the DL than the mound over the last six weeks, and if the Red Sox want any shot of playing deep into October, they’re going to need Sale as close to full strength as possible. While Tuesday won’t paint a complete picture on Sale’s status or guarantee anything for the postseason, a return to the mound is about as positive as it can get at the moment.
If all goes well for Sale on Tuesday night, then he’ll slowly add to his workload in the coming weeks. The hope is he’ll be back around 100 pitches by the time the playoffs arrive, and he can be slotted in as Boston’s No. 1 starter this postseason. Concern will remain until Sale toes the rubber in October, but two innings on Tuesday will hopefully be a nice baby step in the right direction toward a healthy and well-rested Sale in the playoffs.
The second part of the equation Tuesday night is who will follow Sale out of the bullpen. Those honors belong to Nathan Eovaldi, who will begin his transition into a reliever for the playoffs (though he will make his next scheduled start). He has experience as a reliever during his career — just 10.1 innings over seven games, back in 2011 — and could provide Boston with a valuable righty out of the pen. Or he could fit in with the rest of Boston’s relievers and simply toss some in-game batting practice. Neither would be all that surprising, but we’ll get our first look at a potential playoff reliever on Tuesday.
For a game that will mean very little in the standings, Tuesday night is certainly an important one for the Red Sox.