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Positive COVID-19 test knocks Chris Sale out of start Sunday against White Sox

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Sale “feels great.”

Chris Sale throws during a game earlier this season.
AP Photos

Sunday could have provided one of the most memorable pitching matchups of the season. With a new fan favorite starting for a first-place White Sox team cruising toward its first division title since 2008, the opponent was going to be the former Sox ace whose trade started the South Siders on their current trajectory.

But like with so much else in the last 18 months, COVID-19 got in the way.

Sox right-hander Lance Lynn, making his return from the injured list, was expected to face Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale. Unfortunately, the Red Sox announced Friday that Sale had tested positive for COVID-19 and wouldn’t be making that start.

Sale is the latest Red Sox player to test positive after an outbreak that has made its way through the clubhouse of a team fighting for one of the American League wild-card spots.

‘‘At this point, nothing shocks me, to be honest with you,’’ Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. ‘‘On a daily basis, we go through a process and just hope for good news, and this is where we’re at. It’s unfortunate, but he’ll be back. He feels good. He actually feels great, and hopefully he can come back right after his ‘X’ amount of days are done.’’

Cora didn’t divulge whether Sale, who also had COVID-19 during the offseason, is vaccinated. He said he found out Thursday that Sale had tested positive. Somewhat luckily for the Red Sox, Sale didn’t travel with his teammates to Chicago.

After missing last season and most of this season following Tommy John surgery, Sale is 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA in five starts. Even better for the Red Sox, he has been one of the toughest pitchers to hit in the majors, striking out 30 batters in 25 innings.

Though he has been gone for a while, the Sox still feel Sale’s impact. The trade on Dec. 6, 2016, that sent Sale to the Red Sox kickstarted the Sox’ rebuild, bringing back third baseman Yoan Moncada and right-hander Michael Kopech. That deal came after Sale made five AL All-Star teams with the Sox, going 74-50 with 1,244 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA.

Lance is back

Lynn, meanwhile, will rejoin the Sox’ rotation in the series finale after being reinstated from the IL.

Lynn, who went on the IL on Aug. 31 (retroactive to Aug. 29) with inflammation in his right knee, is 10-4 with a 2.59 ERA and is making a case for a possible AL Cy Young Award in his first season with the Sox.

To make room for Lynn on the active roster, the Sox optioned right-hander Jimmy Lambert to Triple-A Charlotte. Lambert (1-1, 6.23 ERA) earned his first big-league victory when he allowed one run in five innings Tuesday to beat the Athletics.

Oh, yeah, him

Former Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber batted second and served as the designated hitter for the Red Sox, who acquired him July 29 from the Nationals.

Greeted with boos when he took his first at-bat in the first inning, Schwarber wasn’t making his first return to Chicago since leaving the North Side. He visited Wrigley Field with the Nationals in May.