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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

Michael Wacha trying to keep positive after hot Red Sox start halted

The Red Sox are 4-1 in Michael Wacha's first five starts with the team, but the date of his next is up in the air as he heals on the injured list.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

ATLANTA — The Red Sox were dealt another tough blow in the midst of their five-game skid Sunday when they placed starter Michael Wacha on the 15-day injured list with left intercostal irritation.

Wacha was originally slated to start the series finale against the White Sox, but was a late scratch. His injured list placement is retroactive to May 5.

“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Wacha said before in the clubhouse at Truist Park before Tuesday’s 9-4 victory. “I feel like each day I just keep getting better and better. And so, hopefully that progression continues and I can get back to that 100 percent.”

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In terms of baseball activity, Wacha said he’s playing catch to keep his arm in shape, but not at full speed.

“We’re trying not to flare that thing back up,” said Wacha. “But [we’ve been doing] a lot of activating the core and getting it to where it’s moving the right way and working the way they should. Some of the workouts are a little modified, but I’m still getting pretty much the same work.”

Wacha isn’t sure when the injury occurred, but said he woke up Sunday morning and his side was tighter than usual. The righthander dealt with a left oblique strain back in 2018 with the Cardinals, but that was more extreme, Wacha said, ultimately costing him the final three months of the season.

Wacha is a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable start for the Red Sox, posting a 1.38 ERA in five starts and 26 innings.

“That’s one of the more frustrating parts. The ball was coming out nice,” Wacha said. “You want to keep that feeling going and move forward. But I’m going to use this time to get better in other aspects of the game and continue to get stronger. Keep getting this side healed up and come back stronger and better, hopefully.”

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Shave as a shakeup

Manager Alex Cora looked like a new man Tuesday afternoon. Or, maybe, an old one.

At the start of spring training, Cora introduced a new look, sporting a beard. But with the Sox going through a funk, the manager decided to shave. Some of the players noticed, Cora said. Some didn’t.

“There’s a lot of people that would walk by my office and say ‘What’s up, A.C.?’ Some of them kept going,” he said. “They didn’t pay attention, and then others would be like ‘What’s up, A.C.,’ and then be like ‘Oh gosh!’ ”

Cora isn’t known to be superstitious, but said he had teammates when he played who were. Raúl Mondesi used to always make sure the dugout was clean during games. If there were cups all over the place, Mondesi would clean them up.

In the end, though, Cora knows his team’s fate won’t be swayed by a change in his look.

“If our hitting depends on my beard, we’re in big, big trouble,” Cora said.

Josh Taylor still waiting

Josh Taylor is in Boston. There aren’t quite any updates on his injured back, but Cora hopes to have some news soon. “He’s doing nothing on the field yet,” Cora said. “It’s something we have to discuss where we’re at with him, as far as like baseball activities and treatment” . . . Rich Hill is doing OK following a positive COVID test, and feels good. The team is just waiting for him to produce two negative tests so he can return. If the Sox receive those Tuesday, the hope is he can rejoin the team Wednesday. Jason Varitek, who also tested positive last week, is back with the club — fortuitous timing, as his daughter, Ally, will be graduating from Baylor this week and he’ll be able to attend with the team headed for Texas for a weekend series against the Rangers . . . Shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer returned to action on Tuesday after a 16-day layoff and was 1 for 4 with a stolen base for Low A Salem. Mayer was initially shut down for what the team said was workload management, and a minor wrist injury added to his time off. The 19-year-old has hit .328 with an .863 OPS in 14 games.

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