DETROIT — There have been almost too many reconstructive elbow surgeries around the majors this season to count and Chris Sale thought he might be next.
With his left elbow sore four days after his last start, the White Sox ace wanted peace of mind and he found it Tuesday after an MRI yesterday showed his ligament is structurally sound. But until Sale — who went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Friday with a flexor muscle strain — heard the relatively good news, he had concerns about his future.
He’s seen the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries occurring around baseball this season as at least 20 pitchers — including Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin and Matt Moore — have undergone the procedure. Even though the White Sox can see similarities to previous instances where they held Sale back, the two-time All-Star wanted reassurance. He got it from a series of tests, including the MRI.
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“The first words out of the doctor’s mouth was, ‘Your UCL looks excellent,’” Sale said. “It’s just flexor inflammation. I don’t know if it’s a strain or not. I heard ‘UCL was excellent’ and I walked out. That’s all I needed to hear.”
The White Sox know there’s much to be done over the next 11-plus days to get Sale back on the field.
But given their previous history, the White Sox sound confident they know how to handle Sale’s recovery. Sale is optimistic he could come off the DL when he’s eligible on May 3 and wouldn’t require a rehab start. He also can see many similarities to May 2012, when he made a relief appearance and was held out of the rotation from May 1-12 because of a similar situation. Last season, the White Sox held him out of action from May 17-June 2 with shoulder soreness. Those experiences lend him confidence.
“Very confident,” said Sale, who along with other Sox representatives, denied a report that suggested the pitcher would get plasma injections into the afflicted area. “Obviously in years past, it is what it is and I’ve moved past it. I don’t see anything different happening this time. I actually have a little bit more time than I did in previous year.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before Monday’s game the club thought it had a pretty good handle on what Sale is experiencing. But Ventura is also pleased Sale has the benefit of knowing his ligament is fine. Though the White Sox could try potentially have gotten Sale back before 15 days if they avoided the DL, Ventura likes how the club is approaching the injury.
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“This is all erring on the side of caution and I’d rather be over on that side,” Ventura said. “He’s been through it before, it’s not something new for him. A guy like him doesn’t like missing starts. He’s a little uncomfortable with that part of it, but in the end he’s going to be healthy.”
Sale also isn’t concerned that his flexor muscle is involved, the same initial diagnosis handed down to Gavin Floyd, who later required Tommy John. It all goes back to the MRI, Sale said.
“I know MRIs are pretty thorough and extensive,” Sale said. “It showed a clear picture of it and he showed me exactly where it was and all that stuff. So for me, I just think it’s more of the same of what it has been in the past and just get some treatment.”