Barnes (hip) returns to mound for side session

Red Sox expect reliever back before end of regular season

September 14th, 2018
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes stands on the mound after giving up a home run to Miami Marlins' Starlin Castro, which tied the game at 4-4, during the eighth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)Charles Krupa/AP

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are closer to getting a key piece to their bullpen back after righty Matt Barnes threw a side session Friday, marking the first time he has thrown off the mound since he was shut down with left hip inflammation.

Barnes last pitched for Boston on Sept. 3.

"Everything went well," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "We'll see how he recovers, and if everything goes fine, he'll throw another one on Sunday."

The Red Sox aren't yet sure when Barnes will be cleared to pitch in a game, but it should definitely be before the regular season ends.

For a bullpen that has lacked defined setup roles due to inconsistency, a return to form by Barnes would be particularly impactful.

Barnes has 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings and has held opponents to a .190 average and a .599 OPS this season.

Nunez could play Sunday

As expected, was out of Friday's lineup against the Mets with right knee soreness, and Cora said he won't play Saturday either.

There's a chance Nunez will start Sunday. If not, he should be back by Tuesday, when the Red Sox open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

will benefit from a chance to get into a rhythm while Nunez is out. Devers, who homered after replacing Nunez on Thursday, has been used sparingly since he returned from the disabled list last week.