Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale is optimistic he can make a big impact on the mound if he returns to action this season.
Asked Thursday whether he can help the Red Sox's odds of contending for a World Series title, the seven-time All-Star told reporters, "That's the plan." He added:
"Our staff has done a hell of a job up to this point. ... We've got the best offense in baseball and you've got to throw the ball too, and our guys have done an unbelievable job keeping us in games and putting up big starts when we need it. And for me, I just gotta come in and do my job."
Sale hasn't appeared in an MLB game since August 2019.
That month, he landed on the injured list with elbow inflammation but was on track to feature for Boston in 2020. However, then-manager Ron Roenicke indicated he wouldn't be ready by Opening Day, and he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Sale has been steadily working his way back since then. He threw a simulated game Saturday and logged another two simulated innings Wednesday.
The 32-year-old said Thursday he's ready for a rehab start and that he'd "go to New Zealand and make a start if I have to."
While expected, Sale's return would be an added bonus for a Red Sox squad that has exceeded expectations. Boston owns the American League's best record at 50-31 and has a three-game lead on the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
FanGraphs gives the Sox an 11.2 percent chance of winning the World Series, second-best in the AL behind the Houston Astros (14.1 percent).
A number of notable pitchers have made successful comebacks from Tommy John surgery, so nobody will be surprised if Sale is once again a dominant force. Even if he were to be 70 to 80 percent of his old self, he'd probably be an upgrade over Nick Pivetta or Garrett Richards in Boston's rotation.