FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — This was not the sight the Boston Red Sox envisioned in Chris Sale’s final spring training tuneup: Their ace crumpled on the ground, knocked off the mound by a line drive.
Sale quickly got up, flexed his leg a few times and walked off the field under his own power Saturday. The AL East champions called it a bruised left hip, and Sale said the injury wasn’t serious and wouldn’t jeopardize his opening day start Thursday at Tampa Bay.
“I don’t see anything lingering from this,” Sale said. “Looked a lot worse than it really is.”
Sale was struck by a liner off the bat of Houston’s J.D. Davis in the first inning. A day earlier, San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner sustained a broken pitching hand when he was hit a line drive and will miss at least a month.
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X-rays were negative.
“When it first hit me, it kind of got me in the hip, but got the nerve. So it shot all the way down to my foot. So, that’s what kind of made me worried,” he said. “I was telling them when I was out there, ‘Give me a minute. It’ll come back. I’ll be fine.’ They didn’t want to wait, so came in here, got it evaluated, looked at, figured out nothing series, just a bruise.”
“It kind of just shocked me more than anything, that initial blow,” he said.
The lanky left-hander considered himself fortunate.
“That’s another reason we’re thankful it hit me where it did,” Sale said. “I don’t have a whole lot of padding anywhere on me, but if I’m going to get hit, somewhere in the hip or the butt’s going to be the place to go. Better than a rib, arm, hand, even the face. So this was best-case scenario.”
Manager Alex Cora said he expects Sale to pitch the opener.
“I bet, yeah,” Cora said. “He was committed to throw more pitches in the game. I was like, ‘No you’re not throwing.”
Even so, Sale gave Cora quite a scare.
“It’s not what you want to see,” Cora said. “That’s the thing about the late part of spring training, it’s just a game anything can happen. We saw it the last few days in Arizona. You see that and you always think the worst. But, see how he reacts tomorrow and we go from there.”
“We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow,” he said. “If he needs a day, he needs a day. But we stretched him enough. Obviously he needs work before that. If he’s pitching on Thursday, we’ll make sure he gets his work and we go from there.”
Chris Archer was expected to start for the Rays — on Friday, he was hit by a grounder in the forearm of his pitching arm and had to leave a minor league game.
The Red Sox had been bringing Sale along slowly this spring — not because of an injury but because they are hoping to keep him stronger as the season goes on.
Sale led the majors with 308 strikeouts last season, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA in his first year with Boston. He started for the AL in the All-Star Game.
But the six-time All-Star, who turns 29 a day after the opener, struggled late in the season. In 11 starts in August and September, he went 7-4 with a 4.09 ERA, averaging six innings.
Over his eight-season career, he is 59-22 with a 2.74 ERA in 133 first-half starts and 32-36 with 3.28 after.
Sale went 0-2 in the AL Division Series against Houston, giving up nine runs in 9 2/3 innings. He started Game 1 and made a relief appearance later in the matchup.
Sale was planning to go six innings, with 80 to 90 pitches on Saturday.
“We’re going to figure something out over tomorrow and the next day,” he said. “Try to build up arm strength to get to where we need to be for Thursday.”
The Red Sox already were looking at starting the season with a depleted rotation. Manager Alex Cora announced earlier Saturday that pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez will begin the season on the disabled list.
Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright has accepted a 15-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.