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Red Sox ace Chris Sale has been battling his mechanics

Chris Sale’s average fastball this season has been 93.5 miles per hour, down from 95.1 last season.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff/File

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Chris Sale has a 2.31 earned run average and 0.97 WHIP. He’s also averaging 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of that.

But the lefthander hasn’t quite been the same pitcher he was last season. His average fastball velocity has dropped from 95.1 miles per hour last season to 93.5. He also hasn’t felt the same confidence in what is usually a killer slider.

Sale faces the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night and manager Alex Cora expects to see some changes.

“We talked a little bit about mechanics. He’s not there yet,” Cora said on Monday. “He’s worked hard with [pitching coach Dana LeVangie] breaking down video. He feels he’s getting close.”


Sale threw only 14⅔ innings against major league teams in spring training, the Red Sox preferring less-stressful minor league games as a way of building up. That could explain why tweaks are needed.

“I think he’ll be fine,” said Christian Vazquez, who has caught five of Sale’s six starts. “He’s getting people out and making pitches. You know he’s going to get better over time. I’m not worried.”

Sale was not available for comment on Monday. But the lefthander said after his last start that his slider was not breaking with the same bite.

“His slider hasn’t been there the whole season. He feels that way,” Cora said. “It’s a work in progress and it’s getting close.”

Sale has been effective changing speeds and getting poor swings at elevated fastballs. Opponents are hitting only .203 against him.

“He competes with every pitch. That’s how I feel,” Vazquez said. “Once he locates that slider, it’ll only be better. You’re going to see it soon.”

Sale has thrown 10⅔ fewer innings and 71 fewer pitches than he did through six starts last season.


A Pedroia plan?

Dustin Pedroia told The Athletic website that he is targeting a May 25 return to the majors. He has been on the disabled list recovering from surgery on his left knee.

According to Pedroia, he will start a rehabilitation assignment with Triple A Pawtucket on May 12.

This came as news to Cora.

“How many days does May have? 31 days? Put [down] May 32nd,” the manager said. “We’ll see. It’s a work in progress. Whenever he’s ready, he’ll be here.”

When Pedroia had surgery in October, the Sox said his return would likely come in late May or early June.

Pedroia has been working out at the team facility in Fort Myers, Fla., for two weeks.

“People think it’s only the knee. But now that he’s moving around and doing all the stuff, it’s all the soreness that comes into the equation,” Cora said. “Jason [Varitek] always said you can work out all you want in the offseason and do everything, but you can’t prepare for standing up for three hours in spikes. That’s part of his process.”

Cora feels a true return date can’t be determined until Pedroia starts to play games.

“There’s going to be some soreness and we have to see how he reacts to it,” Cora said. “Not only his knee but his hamstrings and everything. . . . We’ll have to be patient.”

Field issue in Portland

Double A Portland postponed its fourth consecutive game on Monday because of a problem with the infield dirt. The Sea Dogs have not played since Wednesday.


Sports Turf Specialties conducted a planned renovation of the infield on April 20, using 28 tons of sand, silt, and clay, according to The Portland Press Herald.

Sea Dogs general manager Geoff Iacuessa said the infield has yet to settle. Every home game since Friday has been postponed.

Portland is planning on a 6 p.m. doubleheader against Trenton on Tuesday assuming the field can be repaired in time.

The team issued a statement thanking fans for their understanding and patience.

Thornburg gets started

In his first game outside of spring training since 2016, Tyler Thornburg threw a scoreless inning for Triple A Pawtucket. After the first batter reached on an error, Thornburg struck out the side. He threw 11 of 16 pitches for strikes. The righthander is returning from a shoulder injury that required thoracic outlet surgery and caused him to miss all of last season . . . Brock Holt, who went on the disabled list last week with a left hamstring strain, took ground balls before the game and is improving. “It’s looks like it’s not going to be something that takes a while,” Cora said. Holt is eligible to return on May 8 . . . Andrew Benintendi went into Monday’s game with a 1.011 OPS at home and .533 OPS on the road. “Maybe I’m a cold-weather player,” he said. “Other than that, I have no idea. I need to play better.” . . . The Red Sox players, particularly the pitchers, are devotees of the video game Fortnite. One corner of the clubhouse has been outfitted with four monitors and Monday afternoon found Matt Barnes, Carson Smith, David Price, and Eduardo Rodriguez playing on the same squad in the 100-player Battle Royale version of the game with Sale, Benintendi, and Craig Kimbrel watching. The Sox players won the game.


Andrew Benintendi continued his strong production at Fenway, delivering a sac fly in the fourth inning.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.