At 6-foot-6 and 183-pounds, lanky Chris Sale is all arms and legs and power when he pitches. The capacity crowd of 7,368 Thursday night at Hadlock Field loved it.

The once and maybe future ace of the Boston Red Sox, Sale started Thursday for the Portland Sea Dogs in a 15-4  win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Jimmy Buffett fans who bought their tickets weeks ago for the Margaritaville Night promotion were treated to Sale’s third rehab start as he recovers from a stress fracture to the ribs suffered during spring training and works his way back to Boston’s starting rotation.

Over four innings, Sale utilized all three of his pitches – fastball, slider, and changeup – allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out seven and walking none. Sale threw 52 pitches, 36 for strikes, and had only hitter reach a three-ball count.

“Today went well. Honestly, was expecting to go back out (for the fifth inning). I heard before the game it was probably 65 pitches, but I think the up-downs were a little bit more of a highlight for today. Got a good work in and left the game winning,” Sale said.

Sale set the Fisher Cats down in order in the first inning, and struck out three batters in the second inning and again in the fourth. Only New Hampshire catcher Chris Bec, who played his college baseball at the University of Maine, made solid contact off Sale, hitting an RBI double off the left-field wall in the third inning. Bec said he hit a fastball, middle in.

“I got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it,” Bec said. “No nerves. He’s definitely a legend. I’ve been watching him since I was a kid. At the end of the day, we’re just competing out there. He’s out there to get me out and I’m up there to get a hit.”


Sale said he felt in sync with catcher Eli Marrero from warmups right through the game, and his two-seam fastball and changeup felt good.

“(Marrero) was unbelievable back there for me today. Some of the pitch selections, I was right there with him. And I appreciated that,” Sale said.

Unlike his rehab start last season in Portland, when he was rebuilding arm strength coming off Tommy John surgery, this outing at Hadlock was about fine-tuning his pitches. Sale said. A changeup Sale has worked on while playing long toss with Boston teammate Nick Pivetta feels good, Sale said.

Sale’s fastball was anywhere from 91 to 97 miles per hour, but velocity wasn’t his focus, he said.

“For me, I worry about, what are the reactions of the hitters? How are they responding to the pitches? They hit the bad ones today. I threw a changeup that was up, I hung a breaking ball, and they made me pay. But the good ones were good,” Sale said.

Whether or not Sale has another rehab start is up to the Red Sox and out of his hands, he said. He’s waiting on a phone call in which he’ll learn his next move.


“If they told me I’m starting five days from now, I wouldn’t flinch. I would be excited for that. If I can get through five, six innings and be like I was today, I think we’d be ready to go for the next one,” Sale said.

Sale said “No” when asked if he’s been vaccinated for COVID-19 and was evasive as to if he will get the shot to be available to pitch in the regular season-ending series in Toronto. Red Sox pitcher Tanner Houck and outfielder Jarren Duran are unvaccinated are were unable to join the team for this week’s series in Toronto.

“Today’s today. Tomorrow’s going to come. We’ll figure that (stuff) out then, man,” Sale said.

For now, Sale is enjoying his brief stay with the Sea Dogs. Wednesday, he took part in the team picture.

“I love being here. When the rehab process started getting talked about, I wanted to come here. I love this place,” Sale said. “It’s a beautiful city. I was just in Florida. It’s like, 140 degrees. (Hadlock Field’s) a fun ballpark. It’s a beautiful ballpark.”

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