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Eye on the Ball: Chris Sale’s early returns for the Red Sox

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By Brandon Niles EBS Sports Columnist

The Boston Red Sox acquired star pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox last December for prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, along with a pair of minor leaguers.

The acquisition of Sale, coming off five straight All-Star appearances, was a rare opportunity for the Red Sox to add another elite starting pitcher to an already potent rotation that features All-Star Steven Wright and two Cy Young winners in David Price and Rick Porcello. Sale, 28, is in the prime of his career and Boston was hoping he might be the key to another postseason run.

So far, so good.

Though Sale had only started four games as of this writing on April 21, he’s been historically good. He led all of baseball with 42 strikeouts—10 more than Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers who ranked second—and had a 0.91 ERA, ranked sixth.

Largely due to the strength of their pitching staff, the Red Sox are keeping pace with the red-hot Baltimore Orioles in the American League East division.

Meanwhile, the 21-year-old infield prospect Moncada is still working on finding his way out of the minors. While he was batting .292 for the Charlotte Knights on April 21, the Red Sox have to feel a bit relieved that the youngster hasn’t made an immediate impact for the White Sox. Boston assigned him to three different minor league teams last season after batting .211 in eight major league appearances.

Moncada is still an excellent prospect, but Boston made the right move sacrificing the future to firm up possibly the best pitching rotation in baseball. The Red Sox are built to compete right now, and waiting for Moncada to emerge as an All-Star player wasn’t an option. With the fifth highest payroll in baseball at $176.9 million, the Red Sox are determined to do better than last year, when the Cleveland Indians swept them in the American League Division Series.

It may be a small sample size, but Sale’s early season success is already garnering national attention. It was the best start by a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez threw 44 strikeouts and had a 0.84 ERA in his first four games back in 1998. Sale even got the ultimate compliment from Martinez himself, who tweeted April 20, “If I am going to pay money to go see a pitcher right now it would be Chris Sale! The guy brings integrity to the game!”

Boston has a long way to go before they get a chance to avenge the shellacking they took from Cleveland in the playoffs last year, but with Sale returning dividends early in the season, steady production from young hitters Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, it looks like it could be a magical season for the Red Sox.

Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.

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