Red Sox

MCADAM: Sleeveless Sale played mind game with self, not Orioles, in brutal chill

[get_snippet] [theme-my-login show_title=0]
(Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Growing up in Lakeland. Fla., Chris Sale never had to deal with the cold much. When he went off to college, he actually traveled further south -- to Fort Myers, and Gulf Coast University -- where, again, heat was far more of an issue.

When he reached the big leagues in Chicago, he got introduced to freezing temperatures and wind chill for the first time. Over nine years in the big leagues, he's been exposed to plenty of cold days and nights.

But Sunday at Fenway was a whole different category.

"I was miserable,'' acknowledged Sale after five innings of one-run ball in the Red Sox' 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. "Nothing short of miserable...(Today) was the worst. I said it when I came out of the game: Today was the most miserable I've ever been on a baseball field. By far. Not even close. Not even close.''

Notice the key words here, the time-stamp, as it were, on the comments: "...when I came out of the game.''

In the dugout, when he had finished and wrapped himself in a jacket, Sale could admit the obvious. Yes, it was nearly impossible to properly grip some pitches. No, he couldn't generate his usual velocity, with his fastball sometimes topping out at 87-88 mph. His strategy at times, he conceded, was to "flip it up there and let them hit it.'' After all, how far was it going to go?

Speaking with reporters in the relative warmth of the home clubhouse, he could admit how tough it was (he had difficulty gripping the ball, and his velocity) ... but not until then.

With temperatures in the low-to-mid 30s, Sale went out to the mound in bare arms. Some of this was related to routine; some pitchers, regardless of freezing conditions, feel constricted and unnatural with a sleeve covering their pitching arm.

But there was more to it than this. This was part of a mental game Sale was playing. And winning.