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When Nick Pivetta went to the COVID-related injured list last week, the righthander said he would go to the park where no one was around and toss a ball into the fence. It was his only way of staying in shape. The Sox reinstated Pivetta from the COVID-IL for his Sunday start where Pivetta lasted 5 ⅓ innings, yielding just three hits and one unearned run.

Pivetta was originally placed on the IL Sept. 5.

“It was an unfortunate break but mentally it was good to recheck,” Pivettta said,” I just tried to stay focused and watch the baseball games. I felt fine the whole entire time. I tried to get in as much work as possible to just keep myself in shape as best I could.”

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During his start Sunday, Pivetta was in constant communication with the Sox’ staff. They wanted to make sure that he had his wind and could eat up the innings in front of him. But the Red Sox’ COVID issues aren’t going away. Phillips Valdez tested positive, marking the 12th player since Aug. 27 to do so.

With Chris Sale out and the outbreak remaining situated in the Red Sox clubhouse, Pivetta is now even more important to the rotation. While it was a mental recheck, Pivetta knew the importance of keeping tabs on his team.

“I’m pretending I’m there with everybody,” Pivetta said of his time on the COVID-IL. “And when I’m throwing against a fence, I’m throwing against a fence like I’m playing catch or throwing in a game. I think it’s just all mental and keeping yourself checked in, locked in for that.”

Here come the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are on a roll and are currently the most dangerous team in the American League. They have won the last 14 of 16 contests after battering the Orioles, 22-7. The Blue Jays rattled off consecutive sweeps in that span against two teams vying for a postseason berth. The Jays handed the A’s a three-game sweep at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Then they visited New York and rattled off four straight against the Yankees. The Blue Jays have outscored their opponents, 120-65, in that 16-game span, belting 41 homers. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has 44 homers, tying Shohei Ohtani for the most in baseball. Marcus Semien has 39. When George Springer is on the field, he’s a key contributor to their lineup. At the All-Star break, the Jays were 4 ½ games out of the second wild-card spot in the American League. Now, they are tied with the Red Sox for the first wild-card spot. Semien somewhat predicted this surge.

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“We’ve kind of been up and down now, right?,” Semien said at the All-Star break. “We show signs of greatness some nights. Other nights are tough nights. But I think with a young team, you’re going to see that. I also know that with a young team usually the second half is better. There are a lot of young players and I’m looking forward to seeing what everybody’s going to do. We’ve had young guys who are All-Stars already. I think the second half is when a young team takes off.”

Martinez scratched again

J.D. Martinez (back spasms) was originally in the lineup for Sunday’s game, but was again a late scratch for the third day in a row … Xander Bogaerts, who just returned from the COVID-related injured list, sat for most of Sunday’s game but came in during the eighth inning. Manager Alex Cora said he would likely give Bogaerts another day of rest in one of the three games with the Mariners ... Speaking of the Mariners, the pitching matchups in that three-game set are as follows: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Logan Gilbert, Nate Eovaldi vs. Tyler Anderson. Marco Gonzalez will take the ball for the Mariners Wednesday. The Red Sox starter is still to be determined. Matt Barnes and Martín Pérez both pitched scoreless innings in Worcester. Pérez, Cora said recently, likely would be back after that one outing, but Barnes would need two. Considering where the Sox are bullpen-wise, though, Barnes could come back sooner … Jay Groome impressed during his second start in Double-A Portland. He tossed six shutout inning allowing two hits, and striking out nine. He issued one walk. He hasn’t allowed a run in his first starts with the Sea Dogs (11 IP).

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Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.