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Chris Sale continues to make progress, but the Red Sox still taking a cautious approach

Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale threw 49 pitches over 3⅔ hitless innings in a rehab stint with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs last week.Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

Chris Sale is scheduled to take another step towards a return to the Red Sox rotation on Sunday when he makes his third rehab start and his second with Double-A Portland. But Sunday won’t be the lefthander’s last minor league tuneup.

The Sox would like Sale, who threw 49 pitches over 3⅔ hitless innings for the Sea Dogs last week, to throw four to five innings while building his pitch count into the mid-60s. From there, the team wants him to make at least one more rehab start — “Or two, or three . . .” manager Alex Cora teased – while further building his workload to roughly 80 pitches and five to six innings.


Even if Sale hits those targets in a rehab start late next week, the team will monitor his recovery from his increased workload before making a decision about whether to continue his build-up or activate him in the first week of August.

“We want to get him up in that 80-pitch range and then make sure he can come back and do it again five days after that,” said pitching coach Dave Bush. “When you activate guys after a long injury, it’s not just that he’s ready to pitch. You want him to pitch consistently.

“You have to make sure the guys can recover, they can do it effectively, come back, throw a side in a couple days, and be on the mound again in five or so days. Each of those things is part of the equation right now.”

Though it’s premature to circle a definitive date for Sale’s return, the Sox are excited both about what his potential impact and the opportunity he’ll have to be a difference-maker in a playoff push.

“We know he’s going to contribute. This is not a guy that’s just going to come here and get innings to get ready for next year,” said Cora. “He’s on a mission. He loves the fact that these guys have put this team in a situation to compete the rest of the season.”


As the rotation turns

Eduardo Rodriguez, who left Friday’s game in the second inning due to a migraine, showed up briefly at Fenway Park on Saturday and reported improvement before being sent home to rest. The Sox are hopeful that the lefthander can avoid the injured list and start on Thursday in their fourth and final contest against the Blue Jays.

“We’ll see how he feels,” said Cora. “Hopefully everything goes well tomorrow. That’s our goal and then from there we can map [his schedule] out for the week.”

Tanner Houck, who was initially slated to be available out of the bullpen against Toronto, will instead start the third game of the series to give everyone in the rotation a fifth day of rest.

Houck and Sale aren’t the only ones adding to the team’s rotation depth down the stretch. On Friday, righthander Connor Seabold — almost exactly 11 months after the trade that landed him and Nick Pivetta from the Phillies — made his first appearance for a Red Sox affiliate.

On the surface, it did not go particularly well. Pitching for Triple-A Worcester against many of his former minor league teammates with Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley, Seabold allowed six runs (three earned) on three hits and four walks in 3⅔ innings. But he threw all four of his pitches (four-seamer, changeup, slider, curve) and emerged healthy.


“It was a huge step in the right direction for us,” said Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham.

Draftees signed

The Red Sox announced the signings of 11 draftees, most notably righthander Elmer Rodriguez, a fourth-rounder taken out of high school in Puerto Rico. The team also announced the signings of pitchers Wyatt Olds (7th round), Hunter Dobbins (8th), Matt Litwicki (10th), Christopher Troye (12th), Jacob Webb (14th), and Tyler Uberstine (19th); utility player Daniel McElveny (6th); third baseman Tyler Miller (9th); second baseman B.J. Vela (16th); and outfielder Phillip Sikes (18th). That group joins first-rounder Marcelo Mayer and third-rounder Tyler McDonough as Sox signees . . . The most prominent unsigned player is second-rounder Jud Fabian. Fabian, 20, entered the year expected to go in the early- to mid-first round but slid due to early-season struggles. However, he had a strong finish to the year and is expected to seek a bonus above the MLB-recommended slot value of $1.856 million for the No. 40 overall pick in order to sign . . . The team also announced the signings of undrafted free agents Kier Meredith (Clemson) and righthander Jhonny Felix (Western Oklahoma State College). Felix attended Brighton High School . . . Rehabbing Yankees righthander Luis Severino threw a simulated game against Yankees teammates on Saturday afternoon. Among them: Gio Urshela, who could be activated from the COVID-19-related injured list on Sunday.


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.