Chris Sale shines in rehab start for Portland Sea Dogs

Red Sox

Chris Sale made it one step closer to returning to Fenway Park for good with his rehab outing Tuesday night in Portland. Matthew J Lee/Globe Staff

By Greg Levinsky, The Boston Globe

July 20, 2021

PORTLAND, Maine — The Double A Sea Dogs faithful brought it for Chris Sale and the Red Sox ace delivered.

Sale dazzled a sellout crowd of 7,368 to the tune of 3⅔ hitless innings as the lefthander continued his comeback from March 2020 Tommy John surgery on a sunny and humid evening.

“This has obviously been a long road,” Sale stated. “This is definitely the most fun part for me . . . I like getting after it. The more repetitions I can get at high leverage, the more I can be better from it.”

Sale, who last appeared in a regular season MLB contest Aug. 13, 2019, was the first of four Sea Dogs pitchers who contributed to the 6-3 decision over Harrisburg, Portland’s 14th straight victory.

“I was definitely not going to be the one to come in here and mess that up,” Sale said.

Sale struck out six Senators, walked a single, and threw 34 pitches for strikes. Sale didn’t specify how many more rehabilitation starts he’d need before a return to the big leagues.

“I don’t know what’s next for me,” Sale stated. “I’m going to show up tomorrow, get my work in, and see what’s next.”

Sale said. 41 jersey for Portland’s No. Sale started his outing by throwing a 96-mile/hour fastball to strikeout. Sale then worked around a first inning walk to retire the side with 16 pitches. Sale inserted two strikeouts between a flyout, and retired the side on 10 pitches. In the third inning, Sale used 15 pitches to retire the side in order. He also recorded two strikeouts. Sale had two outs on eight pitches during the fourth.

“It was very good, very good pitches,” Sea Dogs catcher Ronaldo Hernández said. “I feel happy because that was my first time catching someone like him.”

Sale, 32 years old, pitched three scoreless innings in his first competitive appearance for nearly two decades. He tossed 39 pitches and scattered four hits while striking out five in a rehab start for the Red Sox’ Florida Complex League affiliate against the Orioles’ FCL team.

Sale mixed his slider, fastball and changeup against the Washington Nationals affiliate located just over 100 mi north of Fenway Park. Sale touched 98 m.p.h. Sale’s fastball was 97 mph in the first inning. It was closer to 95 in the second inning. Sale’s slider sat around 87 miles per hour and the changeup hovered in the high 70s.

“Today was a good day,” Sale stated. “Definitely a step in the right direction.”

Harrisburg’s Gage Canning walked in the first inning and reached on an error in the fourth.

“You know he’s got good stuff, so you’re just looking for something good to hit,” Canning said.

The seven-time MLB All-Star was there to meet his Sea Dogs teammates after the game and treated them to a postgame meal of steak, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and more.

With the Red Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo rained out, social media buzz turned to Sale’s start. It lived up the hype.

Excitement for Sale’s start brewed throughout the weekend. There were many tickets for resale online that were listed at three times the face value within 24 hours of the game. One pair was on the market at $249 each. At the gates, hundreds of people rushed to get in line for the first pitch. Lorna, a 79 year old from Augusta, Maine, was the first person to arrive wearing her Sale shirt.

“I haven’t been to a Sea Dogs game this year, but this one I had to” She said.

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