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When will Chris Sale return to Red Sox rotation this season?

We’ve got the latest updates for Chris Sale and when he’ll return in 2023.

Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox walks off the mound after striking out the side during the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Fenway Park on June 1, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Just when it seemed like Chris Sale was dialing in to his former Cy Young self, the lefty was forced to leave his start against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, June 1, with a shoulder ailment. Sale was visited by trainers two different times during the top of the fourth inning before being removed, finishing with one run on five hits with six strikeouts.

Just a day later, the team placed Sale on the 10-day IL due to left shoulder inflammation. Here’s the latest on the starter’s status and when he might be able to return to Boston’s rotation.

Chris Sale injury update

June 16 Update — Sale has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left scapula. While this does give him a chance to return this season, it is expected that he will miss significant time. Earliest current indicators project he may be able to return in mid-to-late August to help with a possible playoff push.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sale appears to have avoided the worst-case scenarios: The lefty is still being run through a battery of tests, but right now it seems like surgery is off the table — it’s “just” inflammation, rather than anything structural, and it could be a matter of weeks rather than months until he’s back on the mound.

Of course, this is all very preliminary, and even that best-case scenario likely involves being shut down for a couple of weeks and then seeing how his shoulder has responded. But hey, considering how well Sale had been throwing the ball recently — he’d put up a 2.25 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 36 innings over his last six starts — we’ll take it.

There are a few potential options to replace Sale in the rotation. Kutter Crawford would appear to be the most natural choice, as the righty has put up a 3.48 ERA in 11 appearances split between the rotation and the bullpen, but the team has yet to make anything official. It’s a blow to the team’s pitching, to be sure, but given James Paxton’s resurgence since making his debut last month, Garrett Whitlock’s return from the IL and Brayan Bello’s steady improvement, the cupboard in Boston isn’t quite as bare as it appeared just a few weeks ago.