It was announced Monday night that White Sox pitcher Chris Sale was headed for the 15-day disabled list. Unlike the long list of pitchers before him, however, he does not have ligament damage but a flexor strain. In 2014 that is especially good news for a pitcher suffering from elbow soreness. It makes him extremely lucky, but let’s back up a little.
On Thursday Sale threw a career high 127 pitches in a performance in which he and his opponent, Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, both took no-hitters into the sixth inning. Lester and the Red Sox ended up victorious and Sale ended up with a lingering soreness in his left arm. Over the weekend it was made clear by the White Sox manager Robin Ventura that Sale would not be available for his next schedule start Tuesday.
The White Sox have always been cautious with Sale’s health. In May 2012 Sale was moved into the bullpen briefly due to elbow tenderness. He also missed starts in August of 2012 and 2013. The first due to shoulder soreness and the second due to fatigue. It seems he has always had some issues with over working his arm.
To be safe, Sale underwent a MRI Monday night. The results, as previously mentioned, revealed no ligament damage but a flexor strain. While of course this news isn’t good for the club, it could have been much worse.
In 2014 elbow soreness has been the kiss of death to a very lengthy list of pitchers including Oakland’s Jarrod Parker, Atlanta’s Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, Arizona’s Patrick Corbin and most recently the Yankees’ Ivan Nova and those names are just atop the list of the number of pitchers out due to needing Tommy John Surgery this season. Most pitchers with a tear to the ulnar collateral ligament, an injury whose symptoms begin with elbow soreness, usually require the surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation period. So 15 days of rest and treatment seem minor compared to the 12-18 month period that MLB has seen so many pitchers fall victim to this season. Is it a good sign that a 15-day disabled list stint seems like a relief? The Tommy John Surgery epidemic that seems to be plaguing Major League Baseball needs to be dealt with.
Yet under the circumstances the White Sox have gotten lucky with Sale. General manager Rick Hahn said that even though Sale had no ligament damage that the team would rather err on the side of caution so Sale will undergo rehabilitation treatments and rest for the next two weeks. Right now it is not believed by Hahn that Sale’s recovery will persist longer than that period. He told the Chicago Tribune Monday night,
“We’re going to do everything in our power to protect him for the long term. This is about making sure we get out in front of any issues and make sure he is in the best position to have success and stay healthy for an extended career as opposed to worrying about a start or two here and there.”
This is an excellent move on the part of the organization because it will hopefully spare Sale the need for surgery in the future and his past ailments have shown that the pitcher’s arm does fatigue more easily than other pitchers’ arms. Or does it? With so many other pitchers, I believe the list has grown to around 20 individuals this season alone, out for the year undergoing Tommy John surgery, it begs a few questions. Were these other pitchers pitching through soreness that ultimately caused their ligaments to tear? Should they have spoken up? Or if they did were they told to pitch through it?
Most likely these pitchers put on a brave face, did not want to take the two weeks to rest and ended up being out for the year. It’s a logical conclusion as MLB pitchers are born competitors and have been throughout their lives, to be able to make it to the most elite level. Still, something needs to be done about the epidemic of injuries. Maybe it is just giving pitchers a bit of a break sometimes. Most likely it is more than that but until the cause of this problem has been revealed it is better for all teams to be proactive with their pitchers as the White Sox are being with Sale.
The White Sox will have left-hander Charlie Leesman pitch in Sale’s place on Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander. Right-hander Andre Rienzo, who was called up from Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday, will be the starter in Wednesday’s game.
Sale was not available to comment on his injury Monday night. Hahn did say that he thought Sale was relieved by the news. Sale’s teammate and fellow left-hander John Danks echoed Hahn telling the Tribune,
“I knew he was going to get looked at. To hear that he’s going to be OK and not miss too much time, that’s great. It’s a big shoe to fill. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, and it wouldn’t do us any good to lose him. Fortunately we’re not going lose him for too much and I’m going to try to pick up the slack until then.”
If a 15-day break for Chris Sale saves him from the fate of so many others then it is worth it. It is noteworthy to say that it may be worthwhile for the careers of other pitchers and for the teams they play on, for pitchers to take that short time as a precaution. Other teams should possibly consider this same route, as a means to save these young players missed time and possibly their careers, as Hahn and the White Sox are taking with Sale. Until another way to prevent ligament tears is found, it seems we can consider Sale one of the lucky ones.