He’s still in day-to-day mode, but Chris Sale thinks he took another step forward in his rehab on Monday with a 40-pitch bullpen session.
The session, which took place at U.S. Cellular Field, is the strongest sign to date the White Sox pitcher is recovering. Sale is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 18 with a flexor muscle strain, and his recovery has gone slower than the White Sox first believed it would.
Sale has played catch the past few days leading up to Monday’s effort, including from 180-200 feet on Sunday in Cleveland. Though he has stayed mostly quiet on the topic after an early MRI revealed no structural damage, Sale suggested he’s encouraged by his progress.
“I feel much better than when we started this process,” Sale said. “I threw a 40-pitch bullpen today, got after it pretty good. There’s nothing there today that made me think there should be any stepbacks or any setbacks.”
The White Sox have also preferred privacy throughout the process.
After a report last month suggested Sale was receiving injections in his elbow, the club has tried to limit the misinformation, though manager Robin Ventura said Friday the recovery has been slower this time around.
One aspect that has remained constant throughout is the insistence that the White Sox would only proceed as fast as Sale wanted, that they went off how he felt. Pitching coach Don Cooper said over the weekend there is currently no timeline for Sale.
If Sale’s first bullpen, one Cooper said would be light, went well, the White Sox would have him do another and then one more. General manager Rick Hahn reluctantly said Monday if all went well Sale could start a rehab assignment in 10 days to two weeks.
“I don’t see what is to be gained by (talking),” Hahn said. “It’s more art than science when you are starting to rebuild a guy back. Right now clinically he feels great and he’s progressing, but I don’t want to put a marker in the sand saying he’s going to do this on Day 4 because if for some reason he doesn’t do this on Day 4, it creates panic. In reality it’s just a natural process of rebuilding a guy’s arm strength.”
“He’s progressing, and at some point in the next 10 days to two weeks, there will likely be a rehabilitation start and we’ll go from there.”
Sale is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in four starts. Just when he’ll get his fifth start remains a question and the left-hander said he would prefer to be on the field.
At the same time, Sale understands the patient approach.
“I go out there and throw and relay to them how I feel and then we’ll assess it from there,” Sale said. “Especially early in the season with the colder weather they just want me to stay loose. There’s no need to rush it.”