Thornburg could be the answer in Red Sox’s depleted bullpen

Opportunity knocks for Tyler Thornburg

Tyler Thornburg

Lost in the afterglow of the Boston Red Sox’s 2018 championship season is a bullpen that could be a real problem in ’19.

With set-up man Joe Kelly off to Los Angeles, lefty specialist Drew Pomeranz in San Francisco and closer Craig Kimbrel’s free agency status still undetermined at this writing, the Sox will need someone for the late innings. That someone could be Tyler Thornburg.

The 30-year-old righty is an interesting case. Acquired in an offseason trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016, the Houston native figured to loom large in the Sox pen, coming off a dominant season in which he posted an 8-5 record with a 2.15 ERA while holding opponents to a .162 average.

But he started the 2017 season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury that was later diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome. After surgery, he missed the rest of 2017 and returned in July 2018 to post unimpressive numbers.

TOS is a scary condition. A compression of the nerves, arteries or veins in the passageway leading from the lower neck to the armpit, it usually results in the surgical removal of a rib and full recuperation takes about a year. Some pitchers have recovered to have success (Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Harrison), others haven’t (Phil Hughes) and with still others, the jury is out (Matt Harvey). Unlike Tommy John surgery, the prognosis for success post-TOS is cloudy at best

If healthy, Thornburg could be the Sox’s back-of-the-pen answer in 2019. He certainly has the tools: a fastball in the 94-97 mph range, a power curve in the upper 70s and a sinking change-up in the low 80s. And he’s coming into his contract year, so the incentive to excel is obviously present. Now he just needs to deliver.

The Red Sox can be seen twice this week on ESPN in preseason action from Fort Myers, Fla.: Wednesday and Thursday, March 6 and 7, against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins, respectively.

Tyler Thornburg

Full name: Tyler Michael Thornburg

Birth date: Sept. 29, 1988

Birthplace: Houston

Height/weight: 5 feet, 11 inches/190 pounds

Teams: Milwaukee Brewers (2012-16), Boston Red Sox (2017-present)

Position: relief pitcher

Bats/throws: right/right

No.: 47

Honors and achievements: World Champion, 2018

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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