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Boston’s Chris Sale moved to 60-day IL with stress fracture in shoulder

The seven-time All-Star was initially put on the 10-day injured list with shoulder inflammation, but further testing shifted the diagnosis from bad to worse.

Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Fenway Park on June 1, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The news has gone from bad to worse for Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox, as the seven-time All-Star was transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL on Friday afternoon. Sale was initially diagnosed with shoulder inflammation, but further testing revealed a stress reaction his shoulder blade, prompting the team to rethink his timeline for return.

The lefty will be shut down for at least the next 3-4 weeks, at which point Boston’s staff will see where his shoulder is at and whether he’s ready to resume a throwing program. Even the best-case scenario there would have him pick up a baseball again around the All-Star break, with a potential return to the mound at some point in August.

It’s brutal news for a Red Sox team already short on reliable starting pitchers. (Boston entered play on Friday a woeful 26th in baseball in starter ERA at 5.24.) Sale got off to a slow start this year but had been turning it on recently, with a 2.25 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 36 innings over his last six starts. The Red Sox have already announced that reliever-turned-starter Kutter Crawford will remain in the rotation in Sale’s place, at least for now. Crawford’s acquitted himself pretty well despite not having a chance to fully stretch out, with a 3.68 ERA in 12 appearances (four starts).

Beyond that, this will put a lot more pressure on the trio of James Paxton, Brayan Bello and Garrett Whitlock. Paxton has looked like his vintage self over his last few starts, with a fastball reaching 97-98, but he’s a near-constant injury risk at 34 years old. A former top prospect, Bello has settled in of late in his first full Major League season. Whitlock has been a valuable weapon between the bullpen and rotation the last couple of years, but injuries have prevented him from getting into a rhythm yet this year.