SEATTLE — Chris Sale is tentatively lined up to return to the Red Sox on Friday night.
The lefthander has been cleared to come off the COVID-19 injured list and should be ready to face the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.
“There’s a good chance he’ll start that game,” manager Alex Cora said Tuesday before the Sox played the Seattle Mariners.
Sale last pitched Sept. 6. He tested positive three days later and has since quarantined at his home in Boston. Sale is 3-0 with a 2.52 earned run average in five starts since returning from Tommy John surgery.
The Red Sox had a portable practice mound delivered to Sale’s house and he’s been pitching.
“He’s been able to keep his arm in shape,” Cora said.
Matt Barnes is scheduled to pitch for Double A Portland at Hartford on Wednesday night. He also could rejoin the team from the COVID-19 injured list Friday.
Starting Friday, the Sox will have 14 games over a period of 17 days to close the season. They’re determining how best to use the rotation.
“You’ve got to be smart about it, right?” Cora said. “You want certain guys to face certain teams, or you want certain guys to pitch as many games as possible?”
Cora said the Sox are leaning toward the latter. Depending how they line it up, they could cover 10 of the 14 games with Sale, Nate Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez, and use Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck in hybrid roles.
Innovations are a part of every spring training and for the Red Sox this year, it was a renewed focus on defense.
The early buzz at Fenway South was about the “lab” established by the coaching staff to improve the skills of their infielders.
The reality was the Sox cleared out a few unused batting cages to make space for defensive drills, but saying it was a lab sounded cutting edge. The outfielders did their work on an adjacent field.
Seven months later, it’s clear the lab was better suited for Dr. Frankenstein given the results.
Two errors led to four unearned runs on Monday night in a 5-4 loss in Seattle.
It was nothing new. The Sox have committed 101 errors and allowed 74 unearned runs this season. Through Monday, only the Marlins had more errors (104) and only the Diamondbacks (79) more unearned runs.
Advanced metrics align with the traditional statistics. The Sox are last in the majors in outs above average and runs prevented, according to Statcast.
Monday’s game was an example of why defense could be what keeps the Sox out of the playoffs.
Seattle was gifted a run in the second inning when right fielder Hunter Renfroe took his eye off a single and kicked the ball. That allowed Abraham Toro to go from first to third and he scored on a fielder’s choice.
It was Renfroe’s 10th error, the most among outfielders in the majors.
In the seventh inning of a 2-2 game, Jake Bauers grounded to first base with two outs. The ball popped out of Kyle Schwarber’s glove. J.P. Crawford followed with a single and Mitch Haniger with a home run as Ryan Brasier couldn’t get the third out.
Schwarber, a converted outfielder, was playing at first base for only the sixth time in his career.
“It was in the glove, it squirted out and that was it,” Schwarber said. “I’m frustrated. I wanted to make that play . . . there’s no excuses.”
Through Monday, the Sox had allowed 16 unearned runs over the previous eight games and lost six of them. Their defense has become a fatal flaw.
“It’s frustrating, but we’ve got to keep working at it,” Cora said. “We’ve got to keep putting in the work.”
The errors spoiled a solid start by Rodriguez, who allowed one earned run over six innings and 107 pitches.
Home runs by Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in the eighth cut the deficit to a run.
Pérez returns to roster
Martín Pérez is the latest player to come off the COVID-19 injured list. Righthander Kaleb Ort, who made his MLB debut Monday, was returned to Triple A Worcester to clear a spot on the roster.
Pérez last pitched in the majors Aug. 28. He had a 4.77 ERA in 22 starts before going to the bullpen. His first nine relief appearances produced a 6.43 ERA as opponents posted a .908 OPS.
Two players who had symptoms, Christian Arroyo and Jarren Duran, worked out Tuesday with Worcester in Syracuse. They will likely start a rehabilitation assignment Wednesday.
Danny Santana and Phillips Valdez remained quarantined in Chicago.
Houck will close out the series on Wednesday afternoon.
The 25-year-old had a 2.45 earned run average in his first seven games this season and averaged 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
But the rookie righthander’s ERA is 4.55 in his last six games with an 8.78 strikeouts per nine innings. He will face lefthander Marco Gonzales.
Gonzales is 1-2 with a 5.87 ERA in three career starts against the Sox.
Eovaldi nominated for Clemente Award
Eovaldi, who started Tuesday night, was the team’s nominee for the Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award for community service. Eovaldi has supported events held on behalf of the Red Sox Foundation and The Jimmy Fund since joining the team in 2018. He is the team’s Jimmy Fund Captain this season . . . The Sox released two veteran players off Worcester’s roster in recent days. Catcher Jett Bandy, 31, was dropped on Sunday and righthanded reliever Brandon Brennan on Monday. Bandy hit .208 for the WooSox in 34 games. He has been with the Sox since 2019 but hasn’t played in the majors since 2018 when he was with the Brewers. Brennan, 30, pitched three scoreless innings against Toronto on June 12 then was designated for assignment a day later. He remained with Worcester, where he had a 5.97 ERA over 32 games.