Red Sox: Tyler Thornburg making strides toward return

MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 31: Tyler Thornburg
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 31: Tyler Thornburg /

The Red Sox reliever is itching closer to his debut.

The Boston Red Sox are off to a 13-2 start and there is very little to criticize the team for. However, Tyler Thornburg could ease the concerns surrounding the team going forward.

According to MassLive’s Christopher Smith, Thornburg threw two innings in an extended spring training game in Fort Myers. His stuff (33 pitches) looked lively and improved from his previous outings, according to Smith and manager Alex Cora.

"Thornburg has reached 95 mph on the radar gun at extended spring training. He averaged 94.1 mph during 2016 with the Brewers, per“His velocity was good. His breaking stuff was better (than in previous outings),” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said."

This is an encouraging sign for a team who has shown inconsistency when bridging to Craig Kimbrel. The bullpen hasn’t been a disaster, but there are trust issues moving forward with the current cast.

Carson Smith‘s ERA is at 7.71 in six games, and is partially responsible for Opening Day’s nightmare implosion.

Joe Kelly, who deserves most of the blame for Opening Day, has an ERA of 5.40 in seven games. Although Kelly has been solid since the poor performance, regaining last year’s form.

Heath Hembree checks in with a 4.50 ERA in 10 games, and has given up nine hits in 10 innings. Hembree can be used effectively in the sixth or seventh inning, but can’t be counted on to solidify the eighth.

Matt Barnes of course is the least consistent pitcher in the bullpen, and has caused more trust issues than a politician over his career. Barnes’ ERA is 4.05 and blew the lead in Miami before the Red Sox reclaimed the victory in extras.

The Red Sox need more depth and reliability in high leverage situations. Thornburg, 28, can give them exactly that. If Thornburg can consistently reach 94-95 mph on his fastball to set up his nasty curveball, he should accumulate many swings and misses for Boston. He’s not Kimbrel, but Thornburg uses a similar power pitching style that could serve as a deadly weapon for the eight inning.

While it’s tempting to fantasize about the righty’s potential, we must remain patient with his return to the mound. After all, he’s recovering from surgery to treat for thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder.

The injury was suffered back in March of 2017, and after numerous attempts at rehab, Thornburg was forced to go under the knife in June and end his season. He didn’t pitch at all during 2017, but he’s finally on track to make his Red Sox debut.

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After a mismanaged arm strengthening program installed by former manager John Farrell and company, Thornburg is set to return from his long road of recovery. He’s set to return in early May, per NBC’s Evan Drellich.