Here’s the earliest date Red Sox ace Chris Sale could return –

Red Sox

Sale’s potential final rehab start will take place on Saturday.

Chris Sale return
Chris Sale pitched in a rehab start for the Worcester Red Sox on Saturday. Christiana Botic for The Boston Globe

The Red Sox are taking the rehab of ace pitcher Chris Sale slowly, even if it delays his return.

Sale, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020, will make his next start with the Worcester Red Sox on Saturday, Aug. 7 in Scranton. The outing will be Sale’s second with the Woo Sox and potentially his final Minor League tune up before he returns to action with the Red Sox.

According to’s Ian Browne, that means the earliest date Sale could pitch for the Red Sox would be Aug. 12 — a home game against the Rays.

On Saturday, Sale struck out seven, gave up one run and earned the win in five innings of work at Polar Park. Afterward, he said the outing “felt normal.”

“[The Red Sox are] at the top of the pack right now,” Sale said. “I don’t have time to go out there and do this or that. I’ve got to pitch and I’ve got to pitch good. There’s a sense of urgency to it, and I love that, I appreciate that. The pressure is there in these rehab games. Obviously it’s more in the big leagues, but to have that now, you want this to be as close as it will be when I’m there, and I feel like that’s been a good process the last few starts.”

Sale — who called his Minor League starts “a blast” — said he missed pitching real baseball games.

“There’s no replicating competition,” Sale said. “You can throw side sessions, you can throw live BP, but pitching in games, there’s absolutely nothing like it.”

On Saturday, Sale labored through the first inning and struggled again in the fourth, although he struck out the side in the third. Afterward, he said he felt his stuff is ready for major-league competition and that his struggles were simply an everyday matter of adjustments

A reporter asked Sale if laboring is more valuable than being dominant in rehab starts, given that it might prepare him for better for working through issues at the next level.

“Nothing beats being dominant, that’s for sure,” Sale said. “But I get what you’re saying, and you couldn’t be any more right. Being able to pitch in front of a fan base, being able to pitch against guys who are coming after you, having traffic on the bases, giving up a run, having to pitch out of some stuff, those were all key things, and those were all things I’ve had to battle with before.

“I’m starting to get into more of a normal routine and more of fighting the same fight everyone else is fighting instead of having an injured elbow or having to rehab it.”