Chris Sale strikes out 5 in what could be final rehab start

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WORCESTER, Mass. — Chris Sale struggled to calm himself down in what was expected to be his last rehab start before he rejoins his teammates in Boston.

Now the Red Sox brass will have to decide whether to pump the brakes on their erstwhile ace’s return.

Sale struck out five Triple-A batters before leaving when he walked in a run with two outs in the fourth inning – his fifth walk of the night – then said he was ready to reclaim his spot in the Boston rotation.

“I’m very ready,” he said after throwing 72 pitches in 3 2/3 innings and allowing one run on three hits. “I know today was a little bit of a hiccup, but there’s nothing that can’t be ironed out.”

Pitching for the Worcester Red Sox against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, a Yankees farm team, Sale failed to deliver a 1-2-3 inning, though he induced a double play to get out of the third.

He loaded the bases in the fourth on three hits – two of them infield singles. He struck out designated hitter Armando Alvarez for the second out with a 96 mph fastball that was his 65th pitch of the game.

That was supposed to be the limit for the 33-year-old left-hander, who broke a rib while working out on his own during the major league lockout. But when pitching coach Paul Abbott came out to talk to Sale, he left alone.

No. 9 hitter David Freitas worked the count to 3-2 and then took a pitch that was close enough for the sold-out crowd to cheer in anticipation of a strikeout. But plate umpire Sam Burch remained silent, the runner trotted in from third to tie the game 1-1, and Sale punched the air in frustration.

Manager Chad Tracy headed to the mound, and Sale departed to a standing ovation from the crowd of 8,891. As he walked off, he waved his glove at Burch in a friendly manner.

“I’m a pitcher. I think they’re all strikes,” Sale told more than two dozen reporters in a mid-game news conference in the home clubhouse weight room. “It was probably down. Honestly, I didn’t even look at it.”

Sale gave his performance a raspberry and called it “not good” but said his struggle with command was “a blip on the radar.”

“I mean, I walked five guys. I’ve gone months without walking five guys,” the seven-time All-Star said. “That just tells me it right there that nothing’s wrong. It’s just I got some things I have to clean up.”

Sale, whose first pitch was clocked at 97 mph, said his problem was “it was almost too good.”

“I was just battling myself today,” he said. “The stuff was there. I just had to corral it, and couldn’t.”

Sale could return to the Red Sox as soon next week against AL East rival Tampa Bay, which would give him a chance to make one more start against the New York Yankees before the All-Star break.

“This was all for me to get back up to the big leagues and start doing my job and pulling my weight and trying to win a championship,” said Sale, who treated his teammates to a Hibachi lunch and a steak dinner on Wednesday. “This is all great, but that’s the big picture and I need to get back there.”

Sale has thrown just 42 2/3 innings for the Red Sox since the end of the 2019 season. He missed all of 2020 recovering from Tommy John surgery, then went 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA last year.

He said working his way back from this injury was much different than the previous one. Since reporting to spring training late, he hasn’t felt any pain in his ribcage at all, Sale said.

“I know today wasn’t great. But comparing this to last year, you’re in a completely different spot,” he said. “Just more confidence in myself and my ability, coming back from a major arm surgery last year, a lot of question marks still.

“This year’s more just sharpening the sword, not rebuilding it.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.