BOSTON (CBS) — As the Red Sox gear up for the ALDS, manager Alex Cora made a few roster announcements on Tuesday.
The most important one revolved around ace Chris Sale, who gets the ball in Game 1 on Friday night. Sale battled shoulder issues for much of the second-half of the season, limiting him to just 29 innings since July 22. He made two trips to the DL, and finished his season with abbreviated starts on limited pitch counts. His last time out, he only went 4.2 innings against the Baltimore Orioles, throwing 92 pitches. Sale hasn’t thrown more than 100 pitches since July 11.
There’s some lingering concern about the southpaw heading into the playoffs, due to the fact that his fastball hovered in the low-90s for most of his final start. But on Tuesday, Cora didn’t sound the least bit worried about his ace. He’s confident that Sale has worked out the mechanical issue that kept his velocity down his last time on the mound, and believes they’ll see a much different pitcher Friday night than the one they saw last week against Baltimore.
“The fact that when the game was on the line in that last one and he hit 94 a few times, it wasn’t 99 but he went from 88-89 to 94, I know it’s there,” Cora said of Sale’s velocity. “The fact that he came to me right away after the game was over and he felt it on the mound and he saw it on the video, I’m like, ‘OK, this is mechanics.’ He’s been going through his progress the right way. It’s nothing compared to what it was the first time he went on the DL and the days after Baltimore [on August 12], so that’s why I’m 100 percent sure he’s healthy and he’s going to be fine.”
Cora said Sale’s mechanical fix only required a minor adjustment, and that his ace feels “much better” after playing catch on flat ground Monday.
“We do feel if the mechanics are close or perfect, velocity will come with it,” Cora added.
With rainy conditions at Fenway on Tuesday, Sale threw a bullpen session underneath the Fenway Park stands as his teammates worked out on the field.
Cora also announced that pitchers Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez did not make Boston’s ALDS roster, but have been asked to remain with the team. He said breaking the news to that duo was extremely difficult.
“I let them know they were very important. No chance we survive pitching-wise without them accepting their roles and using them in different roles,” said Cora. “They should be proud of what they did and they’re going to stay ready. They’re going to be ready if something happens and are guys that will be in the conversation throughout the month.”
In addition, reliever Robby Scott and infielders Tzu-Wei Lin and Sam Travis have also been sent to Fort Myers to put in work during Boston’s playoff run, just in case they’re needed on an emergency basis. Second baseman Brandon Phillips also did not make the roster, and has left the team.
Cora also said that if the Red Sox play the Yankees in the ALDS, righty Nathan Eovaldi would likely get the start in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium (if necessary).