Sale undergoes elbow surgery

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Chris Sale underwent Tommy John surgery on Monday.

The Red Sox left-hander had the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow repaired by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The procedure was performed at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

Boston announced the operation in a two-sentence email on Monday evening. Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran confirmed on March 19 that Sale would require surgery after unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate his ailing elbow.

“Chris will return to Florida soon to begin his rehab,” Bloom said on Monday night. “It’s a long process, but we know how driven he is to do this right. We’re eager to see him again on the Fenway mound.”

Sale is likely to be sidelined for anywhere between 12 and 18 months, a time period that will also cost him an undetermined portion of the 2021 campaign. Sale, who turned 31 on Monday, suffered a setback in early March during spring training and made a repeat visit to renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. ElAttrache was selected to perform the operation with Andrews currently not performing procedures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Both of those guys were very familiar with him,” Bloom said. “Both of them, obviously, are very fine surgeons. Either would have been a perfectly great option for this process.”

Boston said during its initial announcement it would consider the current medical climate when scheduling and executing Sale’s surgery. Bloom spoke with ElAttrache personally to discuss whether or not Sale’s operation would place any undue strain on local medical staffers. Los Angeles County currently recommends — but does not mandate — postponing any elective procedure that falls under that rather broad guideline.

“We knew that to schedule this or any surgery right now would not be routine — that there might be scheduling or logistical difficulties,” Bloom said. “Neither we nor Chris wanted to work through any of those potential hurdles in public, so we chose to stay quiet until the surgery was complete.”

Sale threw 15 pitches of live batting practice at the JetBlue Park complex in Florida, his only work since being shut down last August due to left elbow inflammation. He makes his offseason home near Fort Myers and was reporting regularly to Boston’s spring home for on-field work and treatment. Sale attempted to resume his throwing program two weeks ago before being shut down.

Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran said the JetBlue complex remains closed through April 6 after an unnamed Boston minor-leaguer tested positive for the coronavirus. O’Halloran said the player is “doing fine — doing well, generally” and that the Red Sox have had no other positive tests to date. Only rehabbers will be initially allowed back inside the complex when it eventually reopens.

“We’re fortunate that we do have some of our staff in the area in Florida,” Bloom said. “They will help (Sale) to the best of their ability.”

Sale is entering a five-year, $145-million extension that runs through the 2024 season. The Red Sox figure to have just three proven starters available in 2020 if and when baseball resumes. Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez all have proven track records in the major leagues.

Sale’s last game of 2019 came at Cleveland, a 7-6 victory on Aug. 13. He compiled an inflated 4.40 earned-run average and made just 25 starts. It was the first time since the 2011 season that Sale didn’t receive any votes for the American League Cy Young Award.

Sale counts for $25.6 million against the Competitive Balance Tax in each of the next five seasons. Boston will be responsible for a pro-rated portion of that under terms of a deal struck by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on Friday. Owners set aside $170 million in guaranteed cash for players whether or not a game is played in 2020.

At most, Sale will have three full seasons remaining with the Red Sox after returning to health. His next chance to make as many as 30 starts will come in 2022 — he failed to reach that number just once between 2013-17. The last year of that stretch was Sale’s first with the Red Sox, and he racked up 308 strikeouts in just 214 1/3 innings.


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