BOSTON — Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale will have Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, an operation that would keep him out the entire 2020 baseball season if and when it resumes after the coronavirus pandemic.
The team made the announcement on Thursday, two weeks after saying that the left-hander who turns 31 later this month had a flexor strain near the elbow. At the time, the Red Sox hoped Sale would avoid the operation that usually requires a full year of recovery.
Opening day, originally scheduled for next week, has been pushed back until at least mid-May due to the coronavirus outbreak. Sale missed the start of spring training with an illness that the team described as a flu that morphed into pneumonia.
A Red Sox spokesman did not immediately respond to an email asking if Sale has been tested for COVID-19.
Sale is 109-73 in 10 major league seasons and is entering the second season of a six-year, $160 million contract. After helping the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series, he went 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts last year, his fewest wins and starts and highest ERA in a full season since 2012.
After his illness set back his pitching schedule, he threw his first batting practice of the spring on March 4. A day later, he reported discomfort in his pitching elbow. The team said then there had been no additional damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, which was treated with a platelet-rich plasma injection in August.
Sale’s season last year ended after a start on Aug. 13.
“Tommy John’s been a factor in my life for 20 years now,” Sale said earlier this month. “It’s on the table, but it’s always been on the table. So, that’s not something I’m going to worry myself with. I can’t go out there with that in the back of my mind. I have to have the confidence that what we’re doing is going to work.”