When John Danks returns to the White Sox rotation, there will be room only for Hector Santiago or Dylan Axelrod -- not both.
With ace Chris Sale scratched from Wednesday's series finale as a precautionary measure because of mild tendinitis in his left shoulder, Santiago will pitch on three days' rest as the White Sox look to sweep aside the Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Boston will counter with Clay Buchholz, who takes the mound looking to improve upon his 6-0 record and 1.78 ERA.
Although Sale won't pitch on Wednesday, his thoughts regarding the competition are worth paying attention to -- especially if you're Santiago.
"It's a professional lineup," Sale said. "They know what they're doing. They have great hitters, but at the end of the day, you still have to go out there and throw strikes and attack the zone."
That task falls to Santiago, who in 11 games (four starts) is 1-2 with a 2.78 ERA. In the lefty's last two outings, he's given up nine runs (six earned) over four innings, making for an ERA of 6.00.
Santiago's performance will presumably impact whether White Sox manager Robin Ventura decides to leave him in the rotation after Danks returns. Santiago's competition, Axelrod, pitched against the Red Sox on Monday and held them to two runs over six innings.
Santiago will have to be strong against Buchholz, who is one of seven pitchers to own an ERA below 2.00 after making at least nine starts.
Following wins in each of his first six starts, Buchholz has taken home three consecutive no-decisions. On Friday, the right-hander held the Twins to two runs over seven innings, despite not always being quite comfortable.
"Overall, I felt pretty good," Buchholz said after his last outing. "I use all my pitches every time I go out there and pitch, so the confidence behind throwing a cutter in a fastball count, or throwing a fastball in a fastball count, comes along with being able to throw those pitches for strikes.
"I was doing that early in the game, and then I lost it for a little bit."
Red Sox: Ellsbury slumping; Victorino hurt
• If Jacoby Ellsbury doesn't turn things around soon at the dish, he could find himself a little lower in the batting order than he's used to.
"We have considered it, yes," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "And we're sticking with him to hopefully give him the opportunity to come out of the situation he's in right now. But I can say this: whether he's hitting first or whether he's hitting somewhere else in the lineup, there are still things we have to address and he has to address. Those are ongoing."
Heading into Wednesday, Ellsbury is batting .242 with one home run and 14 RBIs. In May, he's hitting .190.
• Shane Victorino was held out of Tuesday's lineup after injuring his left hamstring while running from first to third in the sixth inning of Monday's 6-4 defeat. He hasn't been placed on the disabled list yet, although the Red Sox will make a roster move if necessary.
"We've got to have him respond to treatment," Farrell said. "We've got to have him be symptom-free when we do put him back on the field. Right now, we still think this is a short-term thing, but we've got to let this continue to subside. Hopefully, like I said, he's back to us in short order."
In 34 games this season, Victorino is batting .283 with four doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 walks and 16 strikeouts. He is also 4-for-6 in steal attempts.
White Sox: Danks eager to rejoin rotation
The surgery Danks underwent on his left shoulder is so last year. The left-hander wants to pitch for Chicago again immediately, as soon as Ventura allows it.
On Tuesday, Danks threw a bullpen session and said he felt no discomfort in his shoulder.
"I'd throw tonight if they'd let me. I don't make those decisions," Danks said. "The plan all along was to throw a side [session] and see how it goes and go from there."
Danks could be back in the rotation by the end of the week. Barring unforeseen complications, he'll definitely be back soon, which will push either Santiago or Axelrod into a bullpen role. A decision on Danks' near future is expected after Wednesday's game.
"We'll decide exactly what we're going to do and how we're going to announce it," Ventura said. "So far, it's looked good. Again, it's one of those, he throws here, it feels good tonight, tomorrow and then we'll be able to do it. Because you are dealing with other people when you have decisions like this."
In two Minor League rehab starts, Danks went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He tossed 22 2/3 innings over four games, striking out 15 and walking 13. He also hit two hitters and gave up two home runs.
Danks has spent all six of his big league seasons with the White Sox. He's 57-60 with a 4.12 ERA.
• The White Sox beat Boston on Tuesday, 3-1, for their second straight win. They've outscored the visiting Red Sox, 9-5, over the first two games of the three-game series.
• The Red Sox went 6-2 against Chicago in 2012.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.