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Chris Sale on pitching in Portland: 'I love this place, I absolutely love it.'

The Boston Red Sox star pitcher tossed four innings for the Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field Thursday. The ace had seven strikeouts.

PORTLAND, Maine — With the Red Sox off Thursday night, the New England baseball community was focused on the pitcher's mound at Hadlock Field. Chris Sale was in a Sea Dogs jersey for a rehab start in front of a sellout crowd.

The 2018 World Series champion was back in Portland for the second straight year as he is again working to get back to the big leagues. Sale injured his ribs before spring training and is a few healthy starts away from rejoining the parent club in Boston.

The left-hander tossed seven strikeouts in four innings of work Thursday against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Of the 52 pitches he threw, 36 were strikes. He let up one run on four hits and did not walk a single batter. 

The Sea Dogs hit their way to a 15-4 win over New Hampshire Thursday.

After his Double-A outing, Sale said he enjoyed his time in Portland this week and last year.

"I love being here. When the rehab process started getting talked about, I wanted to come here. I love this place. I absolutely love it," Sale said. "We have great staff, great training staff, great coaching staff. It's a beautiful city. I love it up here. You can't beat it."

In a post-start interview with reporters, Sale said he had more fun than the Sea Dogs players, adding he is ready to return to Boston whenever the team feels he is ready.

"I missed this. Like, I’ve had a lot of time away from this, and I was sitting in the dugout ... and just the feeling that I get out there, I can’t replicate. And I miss it; I enjoy how I felt, I enjoyed after the game, I enjoy even doing [interviews]," Sale said. "I miss this. It’s so much a part of who I am, what I’m supposed to be doing. Like, I genuinely love playing baseball."

The Red Sox star even made an appearance in the Sea Dogs' official team photo taken Thursday. It's the first time Sale has been in an official minor league team picture.

Besides baseball and injury updates, Sale was also asked about his COVID-19 vaccination status. The Red Sox' current closer, Tanner Houck, is unvaccinated, making him ineligible to pitch in Toronto against the team's American League East rival Blue Jays. Boston went 1-2 in their three-game series against the Jays this week. 

Sale said he was unvaccinated before the season began, and when asked if that status has changed, he said, "No." He added he is focused on recovery for right now.

The next stop for Sale is another potential rehab start with the Worcester Red Sox next week before making his season debut for Boston. 

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