No, you weren’t hallucinating. Those tweets you saw announcing that Chris Sale was warming up in the Red Sox bullpen during Game 4 of the American League Division Series were very real. And while Boston ended up earning the series-clinching victory without turning to their usual No. 1 starter in relief, it certainly was a very real possibility.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Wednesday that the team would have looked to Sale to close the game if they had the lead heading into the ninth inning.
Boston still was tied with the Rays, 5-5, so it ended up being Garrett Whitlock in what would be Tampa Bay’s final at-bats. It all ended up working out as the rookie held the Rays and set the foundation for a walk-off sacrifice fly from Kiké Hernández.
While Sale ultimately wasn’t needed to close in that situation, it does raise the possibility that he could be someone the Red Sox look to in relief against the Houston Astros in the upcoming AL Championship Series. It’s a reversal of the team’s previous stance, considering Cora was adamant that Sale would only pitch as a starter, but he proved he meant it when Sale was available out of the bullpen in Game 3.
It probably isn’t the worst plan, considering Sale hasn’t quite looked like himself in his two most recent starts. And the Red Sox bullpen could use a boost considering Matt Barnes has continued to be rocky since returning from the COVID-19 related injured list — and didn’t even make the initial ALDS roster, joining only when Garrett Richards headed to the injured list with a hamstring strain.
Cora was non-committal about Sale’s role in the ALCS. When he was asked Wednesday if Sale will factor into the rotation, all the manager revealed was that “he’ll pitch,” according to Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal.
The Red Sox have yet to announce starters for the first two games of the ALCS, which will take place at Minute Maid Park in Houston. So while there’s answers as to what role Sale would have played in the final game of the ALDS, what will happen for him moving forward remains a big question mark.
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