Red Sox’s Chris Sale set for season debut vs. Rays

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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The Boston Red Sox are hoping to get a major boost to their rotation with the return of Chris Sale on Tuesday night.

Sale, a seven-time American League All-Star, will make his major league season debut in the second meeting between the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In the teams’ first meeting of their four-game series, Boston rallied from a 5-1 deficit to force a tie, but Tampa Bay plated five unanswered to win 10-5. The Rays snapped a three-game losing streak while the Red Sox fell for the fifth time in seven games.

Rays leadoff hitter Yandy Diaz went 3-for-3 with two doubles, three runs and three RBIs, including driving in the game-winning tally in the sixth inning.

“I’ve just been working hard in the cage with my routine,” Diaz said. “I’m glad I’m getting the results after all that work.”

Batting .307 this season, Diaz is 20-for-39 (.513) with eight doubles in July. However, the third baseman is now without the Rays’ regular shortstop beside him. Wander Franco is due to undergo surgery on his right wrist on Tuesday, and he is expected to miss five to eight weeks.

Sale, 33, hasn’t pitched in a major league game since starting Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros last Oct. 20. The Red Sox lost the best-of-seven series lost in six games.

In his final rehab start for the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox on Wednesday, Sale did not have his top command. He tossed 3 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits to go along with five walks and five strikeouts.

Afterward, Sale was caught on video taking out the frustration of his wildness on the Worcester facility, destroying property in a tunnel tantrum.

“I’m not going to shy away from it. I acted like an idiot last night and I’ve acted like an idiot before,” Sale said Thursday. “It’s who I am. It’s what makes me a big-leaguer. It’s what makes me good at my job.”

Per WBZ-TV in Boston, Sale reportedly spent more than $6,000 on lunch and dinner for the affiliate and agreed to pay $1,100 to replace the broken television he further damaged.

The southpaw hasn’t pitched this season due to a rib injury suffered in spring training. He also had Tommy John surgery in March 2020.

Over 22 appearances (20 starts) against the Rays, Sale owns a 10-6 slate with a sharp 2.93 ERA. One of his three career shutouts, a two-hit effort, occurred on April 15, 2016, in a 1-0 road win against Tampa Bay.

After employing a bullpen game in the series opener, Tampa Bay will send out Corey Kluber (4-5, 3.62 ERA) to duplicate his performance last Wednesday in Boston.

Kluber, who reaches the 10-year service milestone Wednesday, matched his best outing of the season with six innings of three-hit, shutout pitching. He turned in the same showing on May 4 in a no-decision at Oakland. Against Boston, Kluber struck out five without issuing a walk.

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

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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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.