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Alex Cora Hypes Up Chris Sale's Return: ‘This Is a Lot Different Than Last Year'

Alex Cora hypes up Chris Sale's return with encouraging news originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

It's been a while since Boston Red Sox fans have seen vintage Chris Sale. The left-hander hasn't been his dominant self since the team's 2018 World Series season.

Injuries have plagued Sale since 2019, when his season ended due to an elbow injury that later required Tommy John surgery and sidelined him for all of 2020. He returned in late 2021 but didn't have his ace-like stuff, then a stress fracture in his right rib cage forced him to miss the first few months of the 2022 campaign.

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Now, Sale is starting his rehab assignment in hopes that a return to the big-league mound is right around the corner. The 33-year-old will pitch two innings for the Florida Complex League Red Sox on Monday.

Manager Alex Cora is encouraged by Sale's progress as he nears his return to Boston's rotation. Judging by his recent comments on MLB Network Radio, Sox fans should be excited too.

"He threw a live BP the other day or a sim game, whatever you wanna call it, and this is a lot different than last year," Cora said. "You can tell. Velo is 97 (mph) consistently; the changeup is back and that's the most important thing.

"Last year he was a two-pitch pitcher, you know, fastball/slider. And his changeup kind of played like a BP fastball. It didn't have the action and that's why you didn't see it often. He'd throw two or three during an outing. But now he's 100 percent with his arm, the other issues are OK now, he's ready to go, and I'm very excited."

An effective changeup would make Sale a completely different pitcher than what we saw last year. Combine that with a consistent 97-mph fastball and his usual wipeout slider, and perhaps we haven't seen the last of "vintage Sale" after all.

Suffice it to say, Sale would bring an enormous boost to the Red Sox rotation if he's even remotely close to 100 percent. His presence would take a ton of pressure off current front-end starters Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta. Plus, Garrett Whitlock could return to the bullpen where he's been far more effective this season.

Sale is expected to make four or five rehab starts before the Red Sox consider activating him. The goal is to build him up to five innings.

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