Chris Sale is a seven-time All-Star who earns $30 million annually. The left-hander is one of the best pitchers of his generation, and a possible Hall of Famer.
And he loved his stint in the minor leagues.
Sale is set to make his first big league start in 732 days when he takes the mound for the Red Sox against the Orioles on Saturday. But he enjoyed a rewarding journey through the Red Sox’s minor league system, and I’m not just talking about his encouraging results.
Last week, there was a lot made about Sale’s decision to take a four-hour bus ride with his Triple-A teammates to Scranton, rather than fly into town before his start. While it’s still unclear whether Sale actually took the bus — Red Sox manager Alex Cora may have tipped Sale’s hand when talking about the ace’s travel schedule with reporters — we know the offer was made.
We also know Sale successfully campaigned for the WooSox’s bus to leave Worcester on Monday, opposed to Tuesday when the series started. He even offered to pay for the extra night in the hotel, though the Red Sox declined his offer.
“The guys were like, ‘Our Tuesday record is not the best. We get off the bus and we’re dog tired,’” Sale told the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. “I said, ‘Let me see what I can do — but we better freaking win’ ” if the team left a day earlier.”
A first-round pick, Sale only spent about one month in the minors before the White Sox promoted him in 2010. After spending an entire season away from his teammates (Sale wasn’t permitted to join the club last year as he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery), he savored the camaraderie.
“My teammates were taken from me for a year,” Sale said. “In the shortened season, I was like, ‘You guys play Miami! You guys play Tampa! That’s two hours from my house. Let me come! Let me come!’ … Those were the things I missed. And those are the things that I’m now focusing on. It’s the people I’m surrounded with, and the things I do on a daily basis.”
In the midst of a brutal tailspin, Sale’s Red Sox teammates may embrace him as a savior when he rejoins the team this weekend.
But he leaves Triple-A Worcester as just one of the guys. That’s exactly how he wanted it.