Jose Bautista hopes to return early this week


Last week, it looked like Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista might be headed to the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain. He has now missed five straight games, but the news Sunday was good …

Bautista told Shi Davidi of Toronto’s Sportsnet that he is aiming to return to action during the Blue Jays’ upcoming three-game series in Boston. He’s feeling gradual improvement with his right shoulder, which he aggravated last Tuesday night while trying to gun down Delmon Young at first base from right field.

Michael Saunders is in right field and Kevin Pillar is in center for Sunday’s series finale against the Rays.

Bautista had tallied four home runs and 10 RBI in 14 games before this extended absence.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.