Sale was limited to 27 starts in 2018 and 25 starts in 2019. In an interview with ESPN's Marly Rivera, the left-hander said his procedure represented a level of clarity regarding his overall health:
"But from a personal standpoint, I'm done trying to figure out what's wrong with me. It's like 'OK, this is the end of all the crap that you've gone through for a couple years.' It's like a new beginning for me. I wouldn't be able to play baseball productively without this surgery. I'm a baseball player, what can be better than getting a brand-new elbow for my birthday?"
Sale was similarly pragmatic when asked about the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a sign the franchise appears content to take a step backward for the time being.
"But we have to adapt and go with it," he said. "We don't make decisions; we don't trade players. We show up to spring training, and we do our best to win with the players we have."
Sale is entering the first year of his five-year, $145 million extension with the Red Sox, and many are naturally wondering whether Boston will come to regret such a sizable investment in the seven-time All-Star.
He told Rivera he's largely unconcerned with any criticism he might receive from Red Sox fans, especially in the context of his contract:
"What my teammates, what my family, what my coaches think about me, that's first and foremost. Not to mention the fact that all these people were talking about how I was so underpaid and undervalued, that I wasn't making enough money for the production that I was doing. Then overnight, I'm an overpaid player. If the flag is that easily blown, you can't really pay attention to it."
In addition to the Betts trade and his lingering elbow problems that led to surgery, Sale had to deal with the shadow cast by Alex Cora's firing in January amid the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal.
Cora, who was the Astros' bench coach in 2017, was implicated in the scheme and investigated for potentially utilizing a similar strategy during the 2018 season, his first year in charge of the Red Sox. The league determined J.T. Watkins, the team's video replay system operator, was the party responsible for electronically stealing signs.
Sale told Rivera he "lost zero respect for AC" and that "everyone blew this thing out of proportion" in reference to people's reaction to the Astros scandal.
Houston beat Boston in the American League Division Series en route to a World Series title. While acknowledging that he thought the Astros were wrong, Sale said he wasn't going to argue they should be stripped of their championship.
Sale said he's six weeks removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he's "really happy with where we're at."
The COVID-19 pandemic will limit how much game time he'll actually miss during his recovery. MLB indefinitely postponed Opening Day to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and a new date for the start of the season hasn't been announced.
MLB owners approved a plan to get things underway in early July, but the MLB Players Association still needs to sign off on the proposal.