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With Garrett Whitlock nearing return, Red Sox must reshuffle rotation again

Garrett Whitlock's improved changeup has manager Alex Cora excited for his return to the rotation.John Fisher/Getty

SAN DIEGO — Red Sox starter Garrett Whitlock (right ulnar neuritis) will pitch at some point during next weekend’s series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Chris Sale will start in Friday’s opener, manager Alex Cora said Saturday after the Sox’ 4-2 win over the Padres.

Whitlock started the season on the injured list as he continued to recover from hip surgery. The righthander made just three starts, allowing a combined 11 earned runs in 16 innings before the Sox placed him on the IL again.

The team, however, maintained confidence that the elbow wasn’t a huge issue and Whitlock would return after just two rehab starts.


In his first rehab start Tuesday, Whitlock went four innings, allowing one run on a homer while striking out four. Cora received reports that Whitlock’s changeup, a huge weapon of his, played well.

“We like the changeup,” Cora said. “I think it got away from him for a while there. It was actually too hard. So we made adjustments. I think he’s getting back to the changeup that he used in 2021. If we can get that one, I think we’re going to be fine.”

With Whitlock entering the picture, the Sox will have to make another decision on which starter will shift from the rotation to the bullpen. The team recently shifted Nick Pivetta to a relief role. Brayan Bello was optioned to Triple A Worcester during the Sox’ series against the Orioles last month after two underwhelming starts. But since being recalled, Bello has posted a 2.57 ERA in four starts, striking out 23 in 21 innings of work. Given his production, it’s unlikely the Sox will demote the 23-year-old righthander again. Tanner Houck, who will start Monday against the Angels, is a strong candidate to shift back to that relief role, amplifying the club’s bullpen even more.


Around the bases

Adam Duvall (right wrist fracture) is taking swings off a tee. Duvall, who is on the 60-day IL, recently said that he sees June 9, which would be the first day he could return, as a target date. “There’s a chance,” Cora said . . . Yu Chang (hamate bone) is progressing. His potential return date is more about pain tolerance. Christian Arroyo (hamstring) will go on a rehab assignment Tuesday. ... Justin Turner (left knee soreness) missed Saturday’s game. He’s still considered day-to-day though Cora noted there’s a chance misses Sunday’s series finale against the Padres, too.

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