He suffered a stress fracture in a rib on his right side during a personal workout prior to the labor agreement.
Chris Sale bluntly speaking with frustration about how he feels about his rib injury: "Got more teammates picking up my slack, (and I'm) doing my job getting paid to do nothing. I'm not afraid to say it, that's who I am."
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 16, 2022
It occurred when the lefty was throwing live batting practice at Florida Gulf Coast University, his alma mater, on Feb. 24
Early estimates are that the injury will certainly sideline him for Opening Day and could extend into the start of the season.
Red Sox General Manager Chaim Bloom told reporters that it could even be weeks before he starts throwing again, nevertheless begin a full rehab assignment.
This leaves the organization with a big hole to fill early in the season.
Here are two players that the team will need to step up in this time.
2. Tanner Houck
In a relatively small sample size during the 2021 season, right-handed pitcher Tanner Houck stood out on the mound.
Chris Sale is a great pitcher when he's on the field but losing him for the first month or so with a non-arm injury isn't going to make or break the season. Good opportunity to see where Houck and Whitlock are at.
— Ed Hand (@EdwardHand8) March 16, 2022
With their ace out early in the year, Houck may need to become the team’s No. 1 or No. 2 option.
They already have a very depleted rotation, with many question marks surrounding some of its younger arms.
Because of this, the biggest thing holding back the Red Sox is their pitching in general.
The rise of someone like Houck could give the team a major boost, especially as the American League East becomes more and more competitive.
The tall righty draws many similarities to Sale, though opposite handed, in the sweeping curveballs they throw out of a lower arm slot.
He has shown the ability to dominate batters and make them look silly at the plate.
Tanner Houck is good. pic.twitter.com/ZjGn5cVRkf
— Section 10 Podcast (@Section10Pod) July 23, 2021
However, there have also been moments where he’s struggled to find command and has the tendency to give up runs.
While he doesn’t walk many batters for someone as young as him, he does challenge hitters with his raw power and movement.
This was exposed in the playoffs out of the bullpen when the Houston Astros jumped on him during his two appearances.
The experience will likely help Houck mature and understand himself as a pitcher in the Majors.
It will be critical for the Red Sox, as him getting off to a strong start would go a long way towards bridging the gap until Sale returns.
1. Michael Wacha
Early in his career, it seemed like Wacha was becoming the next ace of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Injuries and struggles eventually derailed this vision, pushing him to become largely forgotten in the league.
However, in 2021 with the Rays he showed glimpses of returning to his former self.
Michael Wacha, Disgusting 87mph Changeup. 🤮 pic.twitter.com/3MVijt0PDI
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 24, 2021
While he finished the year with a poor 5.05 ERA, he contributed over 23 starts and stayed fairly healthy for the year.
This could be important for the Red Sox, who signed Wacha this offseason on a $7 million deal for a single season.
He will be looking to prove himself as a solid Major League pitcher once again, and the Red Sox will provide him with the opportunity to do so.
With Sale’s injury, Wacha’s role has become even more important.
If he can show shades of his former self, the Red Sox would feel a little more comfortable with having their ace recover for however much time he needs.
Because of this, look for Wacha’s success to be closely tied to how the Red Sox are doing early in the season.