The unexpected impact Chris Sale made in his last spring training start


Chris Sale talks after his final spring training start

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Chris Sale was long gone by the time Sunday's Red Sox spring training loss to the Twins concluded. He had done his part, supplying another wave of optimism thanks to his five-inning outing in which he allowed two runs.

But in the ninth inning - with the lefty well on his way back home - Sale's presence was felt one last time. That was thanks to Jordan DiValerio.

The 25-year-old out of St. Joseph's University was getting a chance to pitch in a major league spring training game in a Red Sox uniform for the first time, tossing a scoreless ninth inning.

It was an experience that might have not been possible if not for Sale.

With the righty having to pitch his senior season in 2020, DiValerio knew there was a chance he wouldn't be drafted. In a normal year, the Pennsylvania native would have likely been taken somewhere between Rounds 6-10, but because of Covid there was only going to be five rounds.

And, sure enough, when the last selection was announced in Round 5 was announced, DiValerio officially found himself as a free agent, stuck with every other undrafted player whose signing bonus was capped at $20,000.

That's when the Red Sox separated themselves.

The organization was leaving nothing to chance. They were calling in the big gun - Chris Sale. DiValerio was getting an unexpected call to seal the deal.

"It was honestly incredible," the pitcher told regarding Sale's recruitment call. "Just knowing they would have their ace, their No. 1 guy, give me a call, it just meant so much. It showed me they cared and wanted me here.

"I was in my apartment, got a call and they were like, 'Hey, just letting you know, Chris Sale is going to call you soon.' I was like, 'OK, whatever.' I thought they were joking around. Then I get this random phone call, pick up and he was like, 'Hey, Jordan, it's Chris.' I was like, 'Alright.' I just talked to him a little bit and he told me how much of a family the Red Sox were. Everybody fits in. It doesn't matter if you're a minor leaguer or a big leaguer. That's exactly how I felt going into the dugout. Everybody was saying, 'Good job' and giving me high-fives. Guys I have never talked to before said, 'Good job!'"

He added, "I was talking to quite a few other teams but I didn't have anybody call me other than scouts. That definitely put it over the top."

DiValerio - who pitched in 29 relief outings for Single-A Greenville last season - saw the relationship come full circle Sunday, getting the call for his ninth-inning appearance on the very same day Sale kicked things off with his five frames.

One inning. No runs. No hits. One walk. One strikeout.

"I didn't know I was going in until the phone rang and they said, 'DiValerio, you got it.' I was like, 'Alright, here we go.' In the locker room, after, was when it hit me. It was a big moment, but you have to play it off as it is just another game," he said.

There is still one box to check off when it comes to this story with Sale - actually talking to the pitcher in person about the phone call.

"We met a couple of times, but I haven't brought up the phone call. I feel like it's weird," DiValerio said with a chuckle.

For now, sharing the box score score for this one day will suffice just fine, as DiValerio confirmed with his big smile while walking out of Fenway South.

"It's definitely a big deal," he said.

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