Prior to falling to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night, the Boston Red Sox had won seven games in a row. The Angels victory snapped a stunning 14-game losing streak for Los Angeles as well.

Despite their recent hot play, the Red Sox still find themselves with a mediocre 30-28 record, sitting in fourth place in the AL East and a whopping 11 1/2 games behind the first-place, rival New York Yankees in the division. While Boston’s starting pitching — spearheaded by 2021 All-Star “Nasty” Nate Eovaldi — has helped them to be ranked eighth in all of baseball in team ERA (3.64) entering Friday, they’ve been without one big name all season long due injury.

According to Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic, injured seven-time All-Star Chris Sale is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday in Fort Myers, Fla., and will face live hitters next week for the first time since February. The injury update wasn’t the only piece of notable news regarding Sale though, as according to Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush — per McCaffery — the southpaw could make his return to the club in a different capacity than fans are used to seeing him.

“We have to get to a point where he’s facing hitters in a live game situation before we really look at that too much,” Bush said. “That being said, I think everything is on the table at this point. If it suits him and us for him to come back sooner and in fewer innings and we have a bullpen that’s capable of absorbing the extra innings, then maybe that’s an option.”

Sale returned from Tommy John surgery last August but suffered a rib cage fracture in March. According to McCaffrey, the fracture has healed, but the former White Sox hurler was “delayed an additional few weeks in early May” due to an “undisclosed, non-COVID-19, non-baseball injury”.

The team beat writer noted that Sale’s pedigree would not only make the pitching staff better on paper, but it could also provide manager Alex Cora some flexibility in how he handles the various arms.

“While they could mix him in as a sixth starter, doing so would interfere with the five-day routines of the rest of the rotation. (Garrett) Whitlock could stay in the rotation with Sale moving to the bullpen or Sale could take over Whitlock’s starting spot with Whitlock moving back to the bullpen,” McCaffrey wrote. “The Red Sox have several factors to take into consideration when making the decision. How Sale looks once he starts facing hitters in games will be pivotal, but the Red Sox’s place in the standings also matters as he draws closer to returning. Then there’s the question of how Whitlock is faring in the rotation. Although it seems like the club is intent on letting him grow in a starting role, they may decide Sale is better suited for the rotation and move Whitlock back to the bullpen.”

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