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Chris Sale left his start with the Red Sox on June 1 and was placed on the injured list. After a MRI on Thursday, Sale was cleared to begin throwing again. Steve Senne/Associated Press

BOSTON — Thursday marked an important step as Red Sox lefty Chris Sale tries to work his way back from his latest significant injury.

Sale underwent an MRI on his injured shoulder Thursday morning and was cleared to begin throwing for the first time since he hit the injured list on June 2 with a stress reaction in his left scapula bone (shoulder blade). He threw from 60 feet at about 60-70% on the Fenway Park field as he began his progression back to the mound. Though the lefty is still a ways away from returning to action, he was upbeat about the development.

“I know it’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s big for me personally just because it’s baseball stuff,” Sale said. “I’m a baseball player and showing up to a baseball field to not do anything baseball related … it’s not fun. It takes its toll on you. To be able to show up and actually feel like I’m doing something to better myself – to hopefully sooner rather than later – help this team is good. Throwing is better than not throwing, that’s for damn sure.

Neither Sale nor Red Sox Manager Alex Cora provided a timetable for a potential return to action for Sale, but roster rules provide a significant hint as to when he may be ready. Because Sale was transferred to the 60-day injured list, he’s not eligible to return to action until Aug. 1 at the earliest. Considering the buildup (which includes rehab games) needed before he pitches again in the majors, it’s hard to envision Sale being ready to go in just five weeks after being shut down for four.

Still, his ability to throw came at an earlier time than he originally anticipated. He expected he would be fully shut down for six weeks but was back with a ball in hand just 28 days after leaving a start against the Reds with shoulder soreness. Sale’s unsure if that means a quicker return to game action, but still appreciated the good news after nearly a month during which he was limited to strength and conditioning drills at Fenway.

“A lot of times when you have a stress reaction or stress fracture or even a fracture in the bone, those most of the time are right around six weeks (of being shut down), give or take,” Sale said. “But with testing and a lot of the stuff I’ve been doing rehab-wise over the last few weeks, I was kind of at a point where I couldn’t really do anything to make this provoked. There’s nothing I can do to really make my arm hurt. So really the next step after that is throwing.”


Sale’s immediate plan is to throw every other day, so his next time playing catch will be Saturday at Fenway Park while the Red Sox are on the road in Toronto. Unlike in previous years when Sale has gotten injured and returned home to southwest Florida to rehab at the team’s Fenway South complex, the southpaw decided to remain in Boston this time around. He has attended games while the team is home and worked out with staffers while the Red Sox are on the road.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere,” Sale said. “I wanted to keep the flow of being in this process. Coming to games, staying for games. Just kind of staying locked in with that.

“You almost don’t even feel like you’re part of the team at times,” he added. “You’re not traveling, not playing, showing up to just workout and lift weights. Not exactly what this thing (points to body) is built for. But hey it’s part of it, could always be worse.”

Since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2020, Sale has dealt with a series of strange injuries that have limited him to just 107 1/3 regular season innings over the past three years. Last March, he fractured a rib throwing a pitch during a private session during MLB’s lockout. After returning, two more broken bones (a pinkie on a comebacker in New York in July and a wrist in a biking accident a month later) ended his season.

“I just kind of take them for what they are,” he said. “Just weird ticky-tacky things that you can’t really do much about.”

In an effort to map out a return plan, Sale and team doctors have referred to a couple of pitchers who have been through similar injuries in the past. As they have in the past with Sale’s injuries, the Red Sox are preaching patience.


“We’ve been through this road before so I think patience is the constant,” Cora said. “We’ve been patient in previous years. He has been able to post, so we’ve just got to stay disciplined, be patient and hopefully he can contribute at some point this season.”

“I’ve felt good for a while now,” Sale said. “And that’s kind of the worst part of it, that’s what I heard a lot is, ‘You’re going to feel pretty good quick, and then you’re still going to have to kind of sit around and wait.’ Initially we thought this was going to be closer to six weeks but, luckily we shaved a couple weeks off and obviously appreciate the guys that I have working for me because that helps me a lot.”

After a rocky start to the season, Sale looked like the vintage version of himself in the starts leading up to his shortened outing against the Reds. Including that 3 2/3 inning outing, Sale posted a 2.25 ERA in a 36-inning stretch over six outings from April 30 to June 1 while striking out 41 batters. Considering how impressive he looked, the Red Sox are hopeful he will once again lead their battered rotation by the end of the season.

Sale, though, is taking it one day at a time.

“I threw a baseball for the first time in four weeks today. I’m in a pretty good mood, so I’ll leave that to all them,” Sale said. “They’re the ones that put the programs together, timetables, all that stuff. I just show up and do what I’m told at this point.

“My shoulder feels good, my elbow feels great,” he said. “First time getting to throw in a long time and obviously the anticipation, the excitement, it’s hard to throttle back. But at the same time, you know, this is a process. If you’re going to run a marathon you don’t just go out there and run 20 miles on Day 1, you build up to that. I’ve got to trust the process, respect my body and just go through it.”

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