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Chris Sale enjoying a normal offseason, excited to get started with the Braves

Chris Sale met with the media Thursday to discuss his trade to Atlanta, his new extension and most importantly, his health heading into spring training.

The Atlanta Braves entered the offseason looking to add depth to their starting rotation. After missing out on Aaron Nola early in free agency, the team pivoted last week by sending young infielder Vaughn Grissom to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for veteran left-hander Chris Sale. The Braves went a step further Thursday announcing a new two-year contract for Sale that includes a club option for 2026.

Sale made the short trip from his Florida home to Atlanta’s spring training facility at North Port on Thursday and threw long toss and a bullpen session. He also took the time to meet with the media via Zoom to discuss the trade and his new beginning with the Braves.

“It actually all kind of caught me by surprise. You know, I wasn’t really expecting anything,” Sale said of the trade. “Was just kind of excited to have a normal offseason for the first time in a while. Just enjoying kind of the baseball aspect of it and then just kind of out of the blue, got a phone call. As you guys know, everything kind of happened pretty quick. So, here we are.”

Sale went into the offseason not expecting a trade, but he said he sees the Braves as a good fit for him going forward.

“A hundred percent,” Sale said when asked if landing with the Braves was a good spot for him. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Braves. The organization, the guys on the team. I’m from the South, so Atlanta had a big part of being a fan growing up. I still get to be close to home with spring training and Atlanta’s not too far, so this worked out really well for me.”

Sale added that he grew up a Braves fan and that the first autograph that he ever got was from Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones.

“My first autograph I got was from Chipper Jones. I went to a camp, got a picture with him,” Sale said. “I think I was 12 years old, 13 years old. Got a picture with him, he signed a baseball for us and it was great. Like I said, growing up in the South, this was kind of the team down here.”

Boston sent a reported $17 million to Atlanta in the trade to help offset some of his remaining salary. The Braves reduced their CBT number for 2024 with his new contract that was announced Thursday and guaranteed that Sale will be in Atlanta through at least the 2025 season. Sale said that he appreciated the fact that they were willing to put their trust in him.

“No, that’s great. I definitely appreciate that,” Sale said of the extension. “They put their faith and trust in me and that obviously makes me feel confident going forward and gives me a boost. Not only going through spring training, but going through the year. It also allows me to feel a little bit more comfortable. I’m going to be here for a couple of years, so I can get settled in and not really bounce around. I’m married, have three sons so one and done’s aren’t really too good for us.”

As a player with 10 and 5 rights, Sale had the right to reject the trade. He said that it all came about quickly, but he wanted to put himself and his family in a good situation. He also wanted to do right by the Red Sox who trusted him enough to give him that large extension back in 2019.

There were obviously a lot of factors on this. Again, I had to kind of work quick,” Sale said. “The biggest thing for me was I wanted to put myself and my family in a good situation. That meant not a whole lot of other places to go. I wanted to be in Florida for spring training and I wanted to play for a team that’s good. Atlanta has had an unbelievable run. They have one of the best teams in baseball. I was excited to join them and do that. Leaving Boston wasn’t easy. I’ve been there for a long time. It was second home to me. They treated my family the best. It was great. But at the same time, I went through some really tough times there and they always had my back. I felt like this was an opportunity to put me in a situation to help myself and to put them in a situation to help them, too. I felt like I kind of owed them something because the last few years haven’t quite lived up to what I wanted to be there.”

Sale was once one of the premier pitchers in the league while with the White Sox. He later helped the Red Sox win a World Series. He signed a five-year, $145 million extension prior to the 2019 season, but then hurt his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed all of the 2020 season while recovering and then made just 11 appearances over the next two seasons. He returned to action in 2023 and logged 102 23 innings while posting a 4.30 ERA and a 3.80 FIP to go along with a 29.4 percent strikeout rate. His season was interrupted by a shoulder issue, but he was able to finish the season on a good note and went into what he considered as his first normal offseason in a long time.

“Really good,” Sale answered when asked about how he was feeling. “Like I said, this is the first time in quite a while that I’ve been able to have a normal offseason. I’ve been doing a lot of shoulder program, a lot of long tossing, just a lot of baseball activity. Things that I know that are going to prepare me for not only getting through spring training, but getting through the season and beyond. I need reps. The one thing I wasn’t able to do for a long time was just play catch. I just had to get my arm in throwing shape. I’ve been able to do that this offseason. Luckily, the Braves’ facility isn’t too far from my house in Florida. So I actually came up here today, played some long toss, threw a bullpen, and we’re all systems go. So I’m excited for that.”

Sale will join a rotation in Atlanta that includes 40-year old Charlie Morton along with two young aces in Max Fried and Spencer Strider. He is hoping that the group can feed off each other and make each other better.

“I’ve got to talk to Charlie about that fountain of youth he’s sipping because he’s figured out a way to stay strong throughout,” Sale said. “Strider’s one of the best pitchers in the game and Max is one of the best lefties in the game. We’re very excited to hop on this staff and feed off each other and compete for another division and hopefully another world championship.”

Sale said that he hasn’t stopped throwing from the time the 2023 regular season ended. His timeline going forward will include him ramping up to get ready for the spring. He is excited for the new challenge that is in front of him and the Braves are hoping that he can give their rotation a significant lift for at least the next two seasons.

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