HomeOther Philly SportsChris Sale to make his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies against an...

Chris Sale to make his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies against an unfamiliar opponent.

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Nick Castellanos is the only Phillie with a long history against Chris Sale. (Cheryl Pursell)

The Phillies are still reportedly in the mix for frontline starting pitching, and Saturday perhaps introduced a little extra pressure.

That came in the form of Chris Sale, whom the Atlanta Braves acquired from the Boston Red Sox for soon-to-be 23-year-old infielder Vaughn Grissom. Atlanta is the third stop in a decorated career for Sale, who was an All-Star and top-six American League Cy Young finisher each year from 2012 through 2018.

But the Braves aren’t exactly getting that version of Sale — or at least, recent trends would have to reverse for them to do so. He missed all (2020) or most of the previous three seasons before 2023 batting various injuries, and he threw just over 100 innings in his final season in Boston. When he’s been on the mound, he’s been more than a viable starter — he has a 3.93 ERA this decade — but durability isn’t exactly his calling card.

Whenever they face Sale in 2024, be it in the regular season or the playoffs, the Phillies won’t bring much personal history against the wiry southpaw. Six Phillies have faced him exactly three times, and Nick Castellanos is the only one with more head-to-head plate appearances.

Their shared time in the AL Central from 2013-16 (with Sale a member of the Chicago White Sox and Castellanos a Detroit Tiger) brought them face-to-face plenty, and suffice it to say Sale had the upper hand. Castellanos is 8-for-42 with four doubles and 19 strikeouts in that matchup.

Beyond the rotation and scheduling alignment, the biggest determinant of whether Castellanos can right the ship against him, and of whether his teammates will get more looks at a player who was once trending towards Cooperstown, will be Sale’s health. And he’s just one of several Atlanta starters who carry that question mark into the new year, with Max Fried and Charlie Morton battling their fare share of injuries in recent years.

If Sale can stay healthy, though, the clear-cut best team in the NL East — however little that designation means in October, as we’ve come to learn the last two years — just got that much better.

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