Sale ‘getting close’ to 2021 debut

ST. PETERSBURG — The calendar has finally come into sharp focus for Chris Sale’s long-awaited return to Boston’s rotation.

The lefty ace will make what is likely to be his final Minor League rehab start on Saturday for Triple-A Worcester at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

That means the earliest he will pitch for the Red Sox is Aug. 12 in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park against the Rays, the team Boston is battling for first place in the American League East.

If the Sox wait one more day, Sale’s return would come at home against the Orioles on the two-year anniversary of when he last pitched in the Majors at Cleveland.

Sale underwent Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020.

The start in Scranton will be the fifth of Sale’s Minor League rehab assignment. Prior to Sale’s last two starts, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Sale would need at least one more outing after that.

The manager didn’t say that about Sale’s next outing. Sale got up to five innings for Worcester on Saturday, walking one and striking out seven while throwing 81 pitches.

“We’ll re-address the situation after that, but he’s getting close,” said Cora. “I talked to Chris this morning. Going into it, and I read some quotes, he felt like it was a regular start. There were no limits, like, ‘I got to go out there and work.’ He accomplished that. Today, he felt great.…

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