The sixth hit that Justin Masterson allowed was a ground single to left field in the third inning Friday night.

That’s right: six hits and the third inning had just begun. Not a good sign.

Masterson made a rehab appearance with his old team, the Portland Sea Dogs. And the Bowie Baysox, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, kept on hitting.

But Masterson sounds like he wants to return immediately to the Boston Red Sox.

“I was real happy with it,” Masterson said. “I started off a little slow, but I was making good pitches.

Masterson got out of that third inning by inducing two more grounders, one for a double play.

“I started being more aggressive,” Masterson said. “I felt really good.”

Masterson left after 4 2/3 innings and 80 pitches, 52 strikes. He gave up eight hits, two runs, one walk and one hit batter. He struck out two.

“You see eight hits (and say) ‘Oh man, that’s a lot of hits.’ But you see how it’s happening,” Masterson said. “It actually wasn’t so bad.”

Half of the hits were bloops or ground balls that got through. But there were also hard-hit balls, like Mike Yastrzemski’s first-inning double down the right-field line, Quincy Latimore’s RBI double to left in the second and Latimore’s double off the wall in the fourth.

Still, Latimore was impressed.

“That’s the best sinker I’ve ever seen,” Latimore said. “I got lucky to put the barrel on the ball. It was definitely moving.”

Masterson threw mostly his sinking two-seam fastball – usually around 85 to 89 mph – with a mix of sliders.

The key, he said, was reaching 80 pitches.

“I felt great throughout,” said Masterson, who hasn’t heard where he goes next. “I do not know what the plan is. I know I felt great. In the end it’s seeing what they have to do. We have some good pitching up there, so we’ll see.”

That’s just it. After Masterson went on the disabled list following a May 12 start, the Red Sox starting rotation actually increased to six pitchers with Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright coming up from Pawtucket. Rodriguez has secured a spot in the rotation with two sensational starts. Wright and Joe Kelly – Saturday’s starter – seem to be competing for the fifth spot … unless you also factor in Masterson.

“Good thing I don’t have to make those decisions,” Masterson said. “Only time will tell what will take place. You can never have too much pitching. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be interesting.”

Masterson, 30, is on a one-year, $9.5 million contract with the Red Sox, who drafted him in 2006 (second round). He pitched for Portland in 2007 and 2008, reaching the majors in ’08. He was traded to Cleveland during the 2009 season and became a free agent after 2014.

In seven starts this year, Masterson has a 6.37 ERA and 1.67 WHIP (walks/hit per inning), both career-highs. His last two starts featured 10 runs in 6 2/3 innings, and Boston shelved him.

“A lot of it was trying to build back up, gain some strength and continue to (work on) the mechanics,” Masterson said.

Masterson has made two rehab starts. Last Sunday he lasted 1 2/3 innings for Pawtucket (two hits, three walks). He felt better Friday, but the results weren’t shining.

With Boston desperately trying to climb out of last place in the American League East, can it gamble that Masterson is ready to rejoin the rotation? Or is the bullpen a possibility? It’s a role Masterson performed well in the 2008 playoff run.

Masterson seemed to be open to at least the possibility.

“I’m all about winning,” he said, “so we’ll see what our plan is and what we’ve got going on.

“Where do we go from here? I don’t know.”