Sale to make Red Sox debut March 6

Seeking rotation spot, Rodriguez faces Rays on Thursday

Sale to make Red Sox debut March 6

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pitching plans are taking shape for the Red Sox.

New ace Chris Sale is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut on March 6 at West Palm Beach against the Astros.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez threw batting practice for the first time this spring on Saturday, and he is penciled in to start Thursday's home game against the Rays.

Rodriguez is in competition with left-hander Drew Pomeranz and knuckleballer Steven Wright for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. All three pitchers came into camp with health concerns, and E-Rod is ahead of the other two pitchers at this point.

Last spring, Rodriguez suffered a right knee injury that lingered into the season and impacted his mechanics. Rodriguez injured the same knee in winter ball in December, but he is now completely healthy.

"Right now, he's showing us his delivery," said pitching coach Carl Willis. "I think last year, coming off the injury, the first time he'd experienced it with that leg, there was maybe a little bit of uncertainty in his mind. This was an injury but not as serious.

"He was pitching in Venezuela when the injury happened, so he had gotten to the point of not just coming into Spring Training and getting ready, but he was ready to pitch. What he's doing right now is showing us there hasn't been any hesitation or doubt in his mind that's going to affect his delivery. That's first and foremost what we wanted to see, and he's been able to show us that since his return to the mound."

Pomeranz pitched the second half of last season with elbow issues and Wright missed most of the last two months with bursitis in his right shoulder.

"But both of them are progressing very well," said Willis. "I think they have a couple of more side [sessions] and they will be getting into BP. If everything goes to plan, they're still going to get five, or basically six starts."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.