Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale knows he's not going to be back until well into the 2021 season, but a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the 31-year-old is glad to be back on schedule to help contribute to his team.
"I feel great now," Sale said Thursday. "The silver lining through all of this is that my elbow has been on track since day one. Nothing off track with that. That has been steady throughout this whole process."
Sale had Tommy John surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament last March after posting the worst season of his career in 2019, with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts. Currently, the lefty is throwing every other day on flat ground, building day-by-day toward eventually throwing off a mound. The team is expected to be cautious in pushing Sale toward his return.
"I don't have any power over this process," Sale said. "I show up and do my work and there's going to be a day where I show up and I am throwing on flat ground. And I know if everything goes as planned, I'm going to go to the mound and then we do it. So and so forth through this process. Taking it a day at a time and doing the work I need to get back out there."
Throughout his 10 seasons in the big leagues, Sale had never missed significant time due to injury prior to sitting out the entire 2020 season.
"This was the first real struggle or real hurdle that I've had in my career. Big injury. I've never missed a year," Sale said. "I've missed a month. I've missed a few weeks here and there. But this was the first big thing that ever happened. I know on the back side of this, my mentality and what I've done physically and what I've learned about my body and things I need to prepare myself mentally, just having to be tougher.
"These days are a grind sometimes, and sometimes you just suck it up and get through it."
Sale faced some minor setbacks in recent weeks, dealing with a minor neck condition and COVID-19, which forced him to quarantine for two weeks while temporarily losing his sense of smell and taste.
Given all of his time away from competitive baseball, Sale said he's approaching spring training this year with more excitement than at any point previously in his career. At the moment, he's unaware of how the Red Sox plan to handle his rehab once spring training breaks at the end of March.
"They may have something in line, I assume," Sale said. "I just show up today, do my stuff. I'm going to go home, spend time with my family, show up tomorrow and do the same thing. That's how I gotta live my life right now. It makes me better getting through this process."