Chris Sale re-aggravated his left elbow injury this week after throwing to live batters for the first time since August.
"It sucks," Sale told reporters. "Tough spot, for myself, this team and the organization going forward. ... There's optimism to be had, and I'm thankful for that. But I know the situation we're in right now, and it's not fun. I know there's an expectation level that not only our fans, my team, you guys, myself hold me to. I haven't met that. I haven't."
Sale, 30, missed the last two months of the 2019 season with inflammation in the same elbow that has caused him problems in 2020. He was advised by multiple doctors that Tommy John surgery was not necessary for this recent flare-up (a flexor strain) just as an operation wasn't needed last season, interim manager Ron Roenicke told reporters Thursday.
"This is about as tough of a situation as I've ever been in," Sale told reporters. "I was able to get through most of my career doing what I love to do and helping my team win, and for sure, over the last year and up to this point, I've done nothing but fall flat on my face."
The seven-time All-Star and two-time strikeout champion had a forgettable 2019 season. Sale tossed his career-low in innings as a starter, saw his fastball velocity precipitously drop and had a career-low 4.40 ERA last year.
Sale, who underwent an MRI on Tuesday, was advised by those doctors not to throw for at least another week, after which the Red Sox and medical professionals will re-evaluate his condition.
"[It's] an uphill battle to climb," Sale said. "But I've got my climbing shoes on, so I'll be ready to roll—whatever way we gotta go."
Sale signed a five-year, $145 million extension before his career-worst season in 2019. That contract takes effect this year. The leftie will earn $30 million per season in 2020, '21, and '22 and $27.5 million per year in '23 and '24.