3 things we learned from Chris Sale’s 2022 debut

The Red Sox finally got to see Chris Sale on the mound for his 2022 season debut on Tuesday night and here’s what we learned from his first start.

Just a week after the Boston Red Sox started four rookies in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history — to less than stellar results, it should be said — their rotation finally got a shot in the arm on Tuesday night in Tampa as veteran ace Chris Sale made his 2022 debut for the club.

While the end result was the second straight loss to the Rays for Boston, that was no fault of Sale’s. Taking the hill on a pitch count as he works his way back from cracked ribs suffered in the offseason, the southpaw lasted five innings and put forth a gem as he allowed just three hits and issued just one walk while striking out five and not allowing a run.

Sale is still working his way back for the Red Sox. A player who has missed significant time with injuries in recent years, they are going to ease him back to a full workload, without question. Having said that, there are a few things we can glean from the hurler’s 2022 debut.

Red Sox: What we learned in Chris Sale’s 2022 debut

3. Sale’s pitch count needs to rise quickly because the bullpen remains a problem

This is an old refrain that Red Sox fans are surely familiar with at this point, but if Sale had been able to throw more than 78 pitches on Tuesday night (he was reportedly on a limit of around 85 for his first start of the season), Boston very well could’ve won that game.

Boston’s bullpen has been the monster hiding under the own team’s bed all season, particularly when the first guy to take the ball from Sale was Ryan Brasier, whose 4.59 ERA is deceiving given how little confidence any fan watching him has that he’ll get the job done. He proved that right by getting just two outs while putting two base-runners on before getting replaced by Matt Strahm, who took an unfortunate liner to the hand that led to an error-filled play that resulted in the Rays taking the lead.

Sale’s health is of the utmost importance, but in the interest of relying on the bullpen as little as possible (at least until reinforcements hopefully come at the trade deadline), the Red Sox need that pitch count to rise in a hurry.

2. Sale’s velocity and location looked where they needed to be

One of the things that was noticeable whenever Sale returned from Tommy John surgery last year was that both his velocity and location right out of the gate when he got on the bump were a bit erratic. He missed his spots throughout his arsenal of pitches pretty routinely and the fastball velocity was all over the 90s, seemingly with no rhyme or reason. That leveled out, but it was something to watch on Tuesday night.

The results were quite impressive. His stat line is reflective of how he operated on the mound. The fastball velocity largely sat in the sweet spot of the 94-96 mph range throughout his 78 pitches but, more importantly perhaps, the location of his pitches was almost wholly spot on. He hit his spots and, even if there were some hard-hit balls, he pitched the way a veteran and ace should. Given that he’s only going to get healthier and more comfortable, that’s a tremendous sign.

1. Chris Sale can be the jolt Red Sox rotation needs

Outside of his past two starts (which were inevitable), Nick Pivetta has been trying to hold the Boston starting rotation together with old glue and Lincoln Logs. Given that Sale, Nate Eovaldi, Garrett Whitlock and Michael Wacha have all missed time this season, it’s been a true hardship for the Red Sox rotation.

We’re starting to see those guys make their way back, though, and Sale is the first to make his return. And even though the end result of the game was a loss, his dominant showing when he was on the mound is proof that, once healthy, the best is yet to come for the Red Sox pitching staff. They needed a shot in the arm in the worst way and Sale looked like the first dose of the cure.

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