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NORTH PORT, Fla. — Six years ago, Chris Sale gave an impassioned speech in the Red Sox dugout. But that’s putting it nicely. In reality, his outburst of rage is best described as a well-timed tantrum. 

Sale erupted with F-bombs directed at his offense, the very same talented hitters who helped Boston earn 108 wins in the regular season. But, in that significant sixth inning, the Red Sox trailed the Dodgers, 4-0. Sale, with all the power his body and voice could muster, screamed at his team and urged the Red Sox offense to, well, “PICK. IT. UP.” Sale was so loud and so threatening that Rafael Devers said he was scared. Yet, it worked. The Red Sox went from 1-for-19 before Sale’s upheaval, to 7-for-16 with two home runs after it. This was a classic Sale rallying cry that spurred an unforgettable Red Sox comeback against the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series. Soon after, Boston won the whole damn thing.

The Braves have all seen the video of him losing it — and they can’t wait until Sale is screaming at them to pick it up, too.

“He just doesn’t know how to turn the intensity off,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud told FOX Sports. “We’ve all seen that video of him hyping up the guys. Anyone that wants the ball for the last out of the World Series when he’s not a bullpen guy, I want him on my team.”

Again, d’Arnaud was referring to that 2018 Fall Classic between the Red Sox and Dodgers. In Game 5, Sale busted out of the bullpen to strike out Manny Machado and deliver the final out of the World Series. D’Arnaud said he can already imagine Sale supplying the same rallying cry, the same F-bomb laden speech, before punching out the final batter and celebrating a championship — only this time he would be wearing a Braves uniform. 

To be the main character in such an electric moment is exactly why Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos plucked Sale from Boston in a blockbuster trade that sent prospect Vaughn Grissom to the Red Sox this offseason. Sale was one of the sport’s best pitchers from 2012 to 2018, finishing sixth or better in AL Cy Young voting each season. Only Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer had lower ERAs than Sale (2.91) over that seven-year stretch among qualified starters. But he’s struggled to stay on the mound his past three years in Boston.

Atlanta will aim to keep Sale effective and, most importantly, healthy for October after his long and recent history of random injuries. Most encouragingly, Sale said this past offseason was the first time he felt fully healthy in six years.

“I grew up a Cleveland fan, so I had to deal with him being on the White Sox, terrorizing the AL Central,” 25-year-old ace Spencer Strider told FOX Sports. “So, yeah, I know very well how effective he is and just how intimidating he seemed as a fan watching him on TV. He looked like somebody that could scare you. That’s definitely the persona and attitude that he has on the mound. He’s not like that in his day-to-day life. I think that would be exhausting. But, when he’s doing his work, he’s a bulldog. It’s very fun to be around.”

Sale, after 14 years in the big leagues, is known for his intense presence on the mound and for being a leader with an uncanny ability to get his team going. The early impressions of Sale from his new Braves teammates feature his sense of humor and breezy personality off the field, which balances out the intensity he brings when he stomps his cleats into the dirt. Sometimes, Sale’s intensity can trickle off the field in the form of meltdowns in the dugout, to smashing coolers, to ripping things off the walls, to taking scissors to jerseys and getting suspended for it. 

“He’s a very intense guy and I think that’s a great thing,” Braves reliever Tyler Matzek said. “All guys when we’re out on the field are intense. Some guys have it internalized and some people show it outwardly. He’s not afraid to show it outwardly and will obviously inject some aggression into the team.”

It’s fair to say the Braves could use some of Sale’s intensity in the playoffs. After winning the 2021 World Series, Atlanta has been unceremoniously eliminated by the Phillies in the NLDS in consecutive postseasons. The club’s early exits are even more surprising when considering the Braves registered 100-plus win regular seasons both years. 

Now, the Braves say they must stay hungry in October, too. It’s not that they were complacent or lost intensity, players asserted, but something was lost in the week off before their recent postseason openers. While they’re certainly not going to hold back in the regular season, they’re searching for a way to play like the bully that won an MLB-best 104 games last year and remain hot in the playoffs. Maybe, just maybe, a seven-time All-Star starting pitcher screaming at the offense and stomping around the place will help give Atlanta the edge it’s craving. 

“First impression is, he’s been great,” All-Star first baseman Matt Olson told FOX Sports of Sale. “He popped in and just fit right in. Seems like a great dude. His career speaks for itself. Somebody that’s been there, done that in every situation you can imagine. Sounds like he’s feeling good, feeling healthy. That’s always going to be number one, especially for pitchers. I know he’s a dog on the mound. Big competitor. So, I can’t wait to see those juices flowing on Opening Day.”

This era of Braves baseball is bursting with talent. Just a couple of weeks into spring training, the club isn’t shy about expressing its expectation to win 100-plus games again. All-Star third baseman Austin Riley joked in camp that Ronald Acuña Jr., the reigning NL MVP, should be promoted to a level above the major leagues. Acuña’s flair is also the exception to a bunch that collectively features a slow heartbeat. Guys like Olson, Riley, Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, Michael Harris, and Sean Murphy don’t often outwardly display their competitiveness or intensity. 

Sale’s personality might help break up the occasional monotonous nature of Atlanta’s winning ways. His ferocity could be just the thing the club needs to stay hungry in October.

“Maybe he’s a guy that can help bring some other guys into that type of bulldog personality,” Strider said. “If nothing else, I know that regardless of what his personality is or anybody else’s, if you want to win as badly as he does, you’re going to be a very worthy asset to us.”

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.


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