By Staff

FORT MYERS (CBS) — Chris Sale will not be pitching for the Boston Red Sox anytime soon. But the lefty was all smiles Thursday morning as he spoke with reporters from Red Sox Spring Training in Fort Myers, Florida, upbeat about his road to recovery.

And it certainly helps that he’s no longer going through a “Home Alone” experience at the team’s Spring Training facilities. He’s been down there for over a year as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, and he’s finally got some friends to hang out with. He’s not the only one partaking in baseball activities anymore, with pitchers and catchers reporting for duty on Wednesday.

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“It’s nice to have more people around and feel like a ballplayer. I’ve been doing this for a while and I’ve never been more excited about Spring Training,” he said during his Thursday morning Zoom with Boston reporters.

Sale said he’s feeling good and is a full go when it comes to “baseball stuff,” but he is a ways away from getting back to the mound. His throwing program is every other day at the moment, and that won’t change until he’s given the green light to move to the next step. He currently has no timetable for his return to the Boston rotation, and isn’t sure if he’ll remain in Florida or head to Boston when the team breaks camp.

“We haven’t gotten there yet. I’m doing more of the same that I’ve always done; show up and do what I’m told,” said Sale. “Take it a day at a time until I’m back to pitching on a mound for the Red Sox.”

Sale has remained upbeat during the process, despite a few minor setbacks along the way. He had a neck issue pop up that he said “slowed some things down,” but the team was able to get on top of it before it become a bigger issue. He also said that he had a mild case of COVID-19 in January, which kept him off the field for two weeks.

But now he’s raring to go with whatever he’s allowed to do, and he’s doing it the only way he knows how: At full speed.

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“I feel great now. We had a hiccup with the neck, but the silver lining through all of this is my elbow has been on track since Day 1,” he said. “Nothing off track with that; that has been steady throughout this whole process”

As he said last year, Sale isn’t looking too far ahead into the future. He’s taking the milestones of his rehab as they come, and at the advice of teammate Nate Eovaldi, he’s taking the process two weeks at a time.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead; not looking at a month from now, two months from now or during the season, That wouldn’t be fair to myself or anyone else in the process. The mound will come when it comes,” he said. “I’m not get wrapped up in process or timetables. I basically don’t have any power in this process.

“I just show up and do my work and there will be a day when I’m throwing on flat ground and I’ll know it’s time to go to the mound. When that happens we do it, and so on and so forth in this process. I’m taking it a day at a time and appreciating that day.”

The slow process has led to some tough days, but Sale is keeping everything in perspective. He believes everything that goes with this recovery will make him better when he does finally return to the hill for the Red Sox.

“It was different and tough at times, for sure. But you just deal with it,” he said. “At the end of the day, perspective is big in these situations. While I was rehabbing and going through things, I had it better than most with everything that is going on in the world. Things that happened with me and days I thought were tough or bad days, perspective is big. You realize you’re not the only one going through tough times and others have it worse than you. You just suck it up and do it.

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“I have no doubt I’ll be better because of this process. This was the first real struggle or hurdle that I’ve had in my career — a big injury. I’d never missed a month, just a few weeks here and there. This was the first big thing that has ever happened,” he said. “I know on the backside of this, what I’ve done physically and what I’ve learned about my body, and how to prepare myself mentally, I’m going to be tougher. These days are a grind sometimes, and I just suck it up and get through it.” Staff