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Barnes (hip) returns to mound for side session

Red Sox expect reliever back before end of regular season
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

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.

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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.

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

Video: TOR@BOS: Nunez shaken up, doubles before leaving game

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.

Rafael Devers 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.

Video: TOR@BOS: Devers belts a solo homer to extend the lead

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Matt Barnes