The myth that comes with Tommy John surgery participants is that this new ligament they have placed in their arms allow for some magical miles-per-hour.
They are throwing harder because they have a new arm. Just look at what Chris Sale was doing in Portland Tuesday night, for instance. Clocking in with a fastball at 98 mph, a good four ticks above what we saw during that last time he took a major league mound 708 days ago.
The real reason for the newly-discovered life on these pitches is because of a commitment to every part of the body except the arm. It's a reality Sale has come to know thanks to the last 16 months of rehabilitation.
“I made a lot of changes with junk food and processed stuff and gluten,” Sale told reporters after his latest rehab outing. “The list kind of goes on. Looking back now, I didn’t really take really good care of myself in that aspect of my life. How I was fueling my body, the stuff that I was eating. You can ask my teammates. I would show up on game day with a bag of McDonald’s or Taco Bell and that was my pregame meal to go pitch. That mixed with a little bit better sleeping patterns and more hydration, I think it’s helped me out a lot.”
Whatever he is doing, this version of Sale seems to play.
He dominated his 3 2/3 innings for the Sea Dogs, throwing 49 pitches. The lefty struck out six Harrisburg Senators, while not allowing a single hit.
“This is definitely the most fun part for me,” Sale told reporters. “This is where I live. I’m not a person that likes getting taken care of or treated or all this other stuff. I like getting after it. So for me, this is more my realm. This is what I’m comfortable with and the more repetitions I can get at high leverage and really letting it eat more, I’m going to be better from that."
He added, “Today was a good day. Definitely a step in the right direction. Felt good throughout the entire game, even in the third or fourth inning running back out there, it felt like I was able to create some arm speed and make pitches when I need to, which at this stage of the game is key. But I have a hard time buying into all that. I’m still competing, I still want to win. I want to succeed. I want to help my team, whichever team that is. All of that stuff is good at the end of it, but while I’m out there, my motor’s going.”
As for the image Sale portrayed, it was one that was built off the pitcher's new way of doing things.
He is sitting at about 185 pounds, up from the 174-177 he carried in spring training, but still nowhere near what he possessed when last we saw him in a major league uniform. And those pounds? You can credit a lot of newfound muscle for a lot of them.
"I was at 197 at the end of 2019," Sale told WEEI.com in March. "That was the most I've ever weighed in my life and how do you think that resulted for me. I sucked and I blew out. I'm not saying that was the reason."
He added, "I got my blood tested and I was intolerant to some things that I had to cut out of my diet. It's just cleaner stuff," Sale said. "I had the metabolism where I could eat anything. I had to give up gluten because that was just creating so much inflammation in my body. I haven't had a single sip of alcohol in a year, just because I know that's volatile for the body. I'm not 22 (years old) getting Tommy John surgery. I'm not 38, but I'm kind of right in the middle of my career. I wanted to make sure when got on the back end of this I was as prepared to be as good as I possibly could be.
"I wasn't springy. I'm springy again. I'm lighter. I feel better. I feel whippy again. I feel loose. I feel free and easy. I'm sleeping better. Everything just kind of came to the forefront with all of this.
"I had a year. You have a year to get your (expletive) together. And I had every resource to do it. The only reason I wouldn't do what I did was because I was lazy. I see it translating on a very small scale, so when I put this on a big scale I can only hope it's the same."
We're getting closer to finding out.