Boston Red Sox: Sky is the limit if Chris Sale can reclaim ace status

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during a Boston Red Sox spring training workout on February 22, 2023 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during a Boston Red Sox spring training workout on February 22, 2023 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

It was a long season for the Boston Red Sox in 2022. Coming off of an insipring 2021 campaign, missing the playoffs last year was an utter disappointment to say the least.

A lack of spending to improve the roster over recent years has cause Red Sox Nation to turn on chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and the brass of the organization. Fans even booed Bloom and Principal Owner John Henry when they faced the music at Red Sox Winter Weekend last month.

When Boston failed to retain homegrown superstar Xander Bogaerts with him signing an 11-year, $280 million deal to the Padres in December, it looked like more of the same penny-pinching was in store in constructing the 2023 roster.

To the surprise of many, Bloom started spending after Bogaerts’ departure and did a lot to revamp the lineup, and strengthen the bullpen. Outfield power threat Adam Duvall, backend rotation starter Corey Kluber, and Japanese phenom Masataka Yoshida are a few names that should be immediate contributors to bringing Boston back atop a tough AL East division.

Most importantly, to the relief of fans, Boston finally locked down their most prized posession Rafael Devers when he signed an 11-year, $331 million extension at the beginning of the year.

Chris Sale isthe one Boston Red Sox player that can make or break their playoff hopes.

Yes, the lineup is solid, and the bullpen appears to have more depth than last year, but it will be hard for Boston to get over the hump without a dominant ace; especially in one of the best divisions in baseball.

The Red Sox acquired Sale via trade heading into the 2017 season, and despite having some great moments and a World Series title with the club, his tenure in Boston has been underwhelming.

Not to the fault of his own, the injury bug has ravaged Sale’s time with the Red Sox, spending over 300 days on the injured list just since 2020.

However, the lefty ace is poised for a bounce back year in 2023. Earlier this week, Sale faced live batters for the first time since July of last season: just before the freak biking accident that sidelined him for the remainder of the year with a broken wrist.

Sale has heard all of the noise, and he isn’t running from the facts: he knows he hasn’t contributed enough, he knows fans and ownership have grown impatient, and he knows now is the time to shut everyone up.

"“I know people have a way of looking at things differently”, Sale said via “but I don’t see why I couldn’t go back out there and be the exact same guy. That’s what I’m working towards. There are guys that do it, right? Look at guys around the league that have innings built up, went through some injuries and then came back and just picked up where they left off."

Sale has always been a fierce competitor, he plays to win and wants to dominate his opposition. His drive is unquestionable, but his body has failed him time and time again.

The Red Sox rotation is nothing to sneeze at, with Garrett Whitlock and Nick Pivetta returning, Brayan Bello emerging as a potential star, and the addition of Kluber to cap it off, Boston won’t hand out any freebies on the mound.

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With that being said, it is hard to reach the post season and even harder to advance in it without that fire-breathing ace who can shut down the best lineups in baseball.

It is unlikely that Sale will resurge into his 2015 self, however if he can be 80-90 percent of that he will still be one of the most feared pitchers in all of baseball.

Bello may have ace-potential, but he surely isn’t there yet, and the rest of the guys mentioned are nothing more than solid “middle of the rotation” arms.

The additions to the lineup should create a serviceable offense, and the bullpen shouldn’t be as depleted as it was in 2022 (second worst ERA among relievers in the MLB).

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The Boston Red Sox have everything they need to make a run at the AL East crown, and they will go as far as Chris Sale takes them.

Sale wants to return back to ace-status, and he certainly believe he can achieve that. While Sox Nation has all but given up on Sale and the team as a whole, it is hard to keep a player with his mindset down, and the Red Sox could do big things this season on the shoulders of Sale.