Everybody expected more of the same this year, perhaps a slight improvement, but nobody had them leading the division with a 44-29 record as of June 23.
Not with the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees expected to be players in the quest for the division title.
The pitching, however, has been a liability to this day.
The Red Sox’s collective 4.22 ERA is good for only the 17th place among the 30 MLB teams, and it’s an area that they definitely can improve.
Sure, a trade addition would work, but they may have the best solution in-house.
Chris Sale Can Make Or Break Boston’s Season
Left-handed starter Chris Sale, currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery performed last spring, is shaping up to return in the second half.
His return will go a long way into helping solve Boston’s pitching issues.
Only Nathan Eovaldi (3.90 ERA) has been consistent, and even still, he is not an ace.
Boston will welcome Sale back with open arms.
Sale has a career 3.03 ERA in 1,629.2 innings.
He has been consistently great, and is the ace Boston needs to hold off the advances of the Rays and Yankees.
It’s possible that Boston, seeing how they can compete in the American League East, decide to be buyers at the deadline, but even if they don’t, Sale’s pending return can push them towards October baseball.
When Will Sale Be Back?
Of course, it will all depend on how soon Sale can return to the active roster.
Rushing him back and risking a setback with his surgically repaired elbow is not worth it, so the team is understandably taking things slow with his rehab.
He still has several hurdles to clear.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said over the weekend that Sale could progress to facing live hitters by the end of June.
He has been throwing bullpen sessions, and will do so again on Friday.
— Ashley Green (@agreenphotog) June 18, 2021
If he has no issues, then he can start facing minor league hitters in the last part of the long rehab process from Tommy John surgery.
Boston will probably see what happened to Noah Syndergaard (setback with Tommy John recovery) as a lesson to be learned: they will slowly, but surely build arm strength.
If Chris Sale is healthy and effective during the second half and postseason, this team could go really deep into the playoffs, perhaps a threat to win it all. https://t.co/g0o5NlTEiQ
— TB12 🌊🍑 (@Down28To3) May 21, 2021
At this point, Sale is probably looking at an August return, which would give him about two months to make his impact on the team.
If Sale regains his top form (which is possible, since he is not old at 32 years old), then Boston can dream big when it comes to making it to the postseason and possibly beyond.