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Red Sox ace Chris Sale to pitch Saturday vs. Orioles in first start in more than two years

Chris Sale pitched for the WooSox in his final rehab start on Saturday.Christopher Dolan/Associated Press

The Red Sox have their ace back.

Chris Sale, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020, will start for the Red Sox against the Orioles next Saturday at Fenway Park, two years and a day from the last time he stepped on a mound in a major-league game.

Sale tossed 4 ⅔ shutout innings for the WooSox Saturday in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, allowing two hits while walking three and striking out eight vs. the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate Railriders.

“It’ll be good for us,” said Sox manager Alex Cora, reacting to the one positive piece of news in the aftermath of Sunday’s 9-8 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto. “But we got four games before he pitches. We got to take care of business first. We got a tough series against the Rays. Like I said, go back to Fenway, do our thing and start playing better baseball.”


Though Garrett Richards put together a serviceable start Sunday, the most prudent decision would be for the Sox to remove him from the rotation and add Sale in addition to Tanner Houck, who took over Martín Pérez’s spot in the rotation. Pérez was subsequently relegated to a bullpen role.

The same fate is likely to befall Richards, who has a 5.22 ERA in 22 starts this year. When Richards was asked if he thought about the possibility no longer being in the rotation, he didn’t offer much.

“I love that you all [the media] ask that every week, to be honest,” Richards said. That’s not something that I worry about. My job is to take the ball when they asked me to take the ball. I feel like you guys are the only ones that are really thinking in that direction.

Garrett Richards threw five innings of six-hit baseball Sunday.Chris Katsarov/Associated Press

“Internally, I’m taking the ball every fifth or sixth day and trying to give my team a chance to win. I don’t know [what it’ll look like] going forward.”


Duran, Martinez activated

Jarren Duran and J.D. Martinez had been sidelined as they underwent testing for COVID-19. The pair tested negative and activated for Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays.

“‘It’s the world we live in right now,” Martinez said after going 4 for 5 with two runs scored and three runs driven in. “You get sick and everyone thinks it COVID. And the first question, everyone’s asking is, ‘Are you vaccinated? Are you vaccinated?’ And that’s one of those things where it’s just kind of like we just got to wait for the results and go from there.”

This wasn’t the first time Martinez was added to the COVID-related IL, but tested negative. Back in April when the team visited Baltimore, Martinez dealt with the same issue after a bout with his allergies.

Tight elbow for Sawamura

Hirokazu Sawamura was removed from Sunday’s game with right elbow tightness, the Red Sox announced. Sawamura threw eight pitches in the bottom of the seventh inning against Toronto. None of which landed for strikes. Sawamura was ultimately replaced by Adam Ottavino.

“[Trainers] checked on him after the game. We’ll check on him tomorrow again and see where we are,” Cora said.

Sawamura recently came off the IL after dealing with triceps inflammation.

Schwarber progressing

Kyle Schwarber has been hampered by left groin tightness but the Sox don’t believe it will impact the timeline of his return.

“He was sore over the weekend,” Cora said. “Nothing serious. He’ll workout tomorrow. It’s just a little bit of soreness on his left groin but nothing serious. Nothing to do. He’s still progressing. He’s feeling better. And tomorrow the plan is for him to workout and keep getting after it.”


When will Kyle Schwarber be ready?Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Schwarber has been on the injured list since early July with a right hamstring strain.

During the recent series against the Tigers in Detroit, Schwarber took grounders at first base during pregame of last Wednesday’s game. Third base coach Carlos Febles hit fungoes to Schwarber before Schwaber suddenly stopped and went to the clubhouse. He did not return.

Verdugo on leave

The Red Sox placed Alex Verdugo on the paternity leave list. He is expected to miss the upcoming days, Cora said . . . Eduardo Rodriguez will take the mound Tuesday against Tampa’s Luis Patino. The Sox will start Nate Eovaldi Wednesday against a still-to-be-determined starter for the Rays.

Julian McWilliams can be reached at Follow him @byJulianMack.