Red Sox ace Chris Sale dominates in minor-league rehab start for Double-A Portland

The Harrisburg Senators and Portland Sea Dogs squared off in Double-A action Tuesday night and there was a bit extra attention due the presence of a spindly lefty taking the mound for the Sea Dogs. That would be Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. 

In Sale’s first rehab start, he pitched in Rookie Ball last Thursday. He worked three scoreless innings, allowing four hits while striking out five and not walking anyone. 

The second outing is much more important. Not only do we get to see how his body responded and if he can continue to add to the workload, but it’s against stiffer competition. 

Sale would pass all tests, assuming he doesn’t wake up with his elbow barking tomorrow morning. 

His fastball was there, with those on scene (Chris Cotillo of masslive.com) noting that Sale was sitting 97-98 miles per hour with the heater. 

And the wipeout slider? 

Check! 

Sale’s final line: 3 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K.

So, yes, he totally dominated. Zero hits!

Most importantly, Sale threw 49 pitches. Generally pitchers working back can increase their pitch count somewhere in the 15-20 range per start, so that means next time out he’s likely to pitch with Triple-A Worchester (if their schedule lines up with the plans of Sale and the Red Sox front office) and could work up into the 65-pitch range. After that, he just might be ready to join the big-league club. Even if he’s only limited to something like 75-80 pitches in his first outing back with the Red Sox, that probably gets them through at least five innings and that’s plenty to build on. 

Simply, Tuesday’s outing — again, assuming he’s not hurting — was a huge success for Sale and the Red Sox. 

The Red Sox right now have Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez and probably Martin Perez as rotation fixtures. Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards and Tanner Houck are also hanging around. It’ll be interesting to see the route the Red Sox take once Sale is ready to join the rotation — and there’s a trade deadline coming, too — but it’s going to be a lot better rotation once he’s in there. 

The Red Sox entered Tuesday night with a 1 1/2 game lead over the Rays in the AL East.