Boston Red Sox ace pitcher Chris Sale left the mound in the fourth inning Thursday night against the Cincinnati Reds after suffering “shoulder soreness.” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said that he decided to remove the starter due to his previous injury history and a noticeable drop in fastball velocity early on.

“It’s a sore shoulder. He’ll have an MRI (on Friday) and we’ll hope for the best,” Cora said on NESN after the game. “It obviously didn’t look great. The velocity went down — I want to say in the second inning it went from 95 (mph) to 90. Let’s wait and see.”

When Sale left the game with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, he had six strikeouts and had only allowed one run on five hits. Following a mound visit and his first walk of the game, however, the coaching staff decided to go out for another visit to remove him.

“We’ve been through this for a while and we know each other,” Cora said. “It’s not easy because of what he’s gone through, but at the end of the day I gotta take care of him. I know he tried to take care of us, but it doesn’t work that way from my end. In the end, it’s Chris Sale over the Red Sox, I know he wanted to finish it but I can’t be responsible.”

Since the end of the 2019 season, Sale has only started in 22 games due to Tommy John surgery and a litany of other injuries. In his 11 starts this season, the ace occasionally struggled but appeared to be returning to form more often than not with one of the highest strikeout rates in the league.

Shortly before suffering his most recent setback, Sale told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he felt like he was finally feeling like himself on the mound again.

“I’m going out there and having fun again, and not throwing every pitch with three years of hate behind it,” Sale told Nightengale. “I’m going out there with the attitude that today is a new day. Take it for what it is. Appreciate it. Because I sure know it can be taken away.”

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