When the Red Sox acquired Tyler Thornburg in the 2016 offseason, they envisioned him becoming a critical bullpen piece. Since the trade, Thornburg has not thrown a pitch for the Red Sox due to thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder. The former Brewer could rejoin the Red Sox soon as he began his rehab assignment Monday. Thornburg was impressive in his first appearance considering the last time he pitched any kind of regular season game was in 2016. He could be a very welcomed addition to the Red Sox bullpen if he can return to his old form.
Red Sox Trade for Thornburg
When the Red Sox acquired Thornburg, he was coming of a dominant season in which he recorded a 2.15 ERA. He had recorded thirteen saves and struck out ninety batters in just 67 innings. He held batters to a .167 average, and was particularly dominant on lefties, who hit a measly .130 against him. In exchange for him, the Sox gave up prospects and Travis Shaw, who has broken out as the Brewers’ starting third baseman. This hurt the Red Sox as they struggled to get any production from third base until the MLB debut of Rafael Devers last year. Thornburg could still make it a good trade for the Sox, but the team will ease him back in.
Where Thornburg Fits In
When the Red Sox acquired Thornburg he was supposed to be a dominant late inning reliever. He still could be, but the Sox will be careful. Like with Carson Smith when he returned from Tommy John, the Red Sox will not use Thornburg in high leverage situations at first. The priority will be getting him comfortable on a Major League mound again. In his first rehab appearance he struck out three, showing that his strikeout stuff is still there. By the end of the season he could be the setup man for Kimbrel.
What to Expect
People will have to be patient with Thornburg, as he is coming off a difficult injury. It would be a surprise if he came back and dominated right away. The Red Sox will give him every opportunity to succeed. If he can return to his old form then the Red Sox get one of the best relievers in baseball without having to give anything up. Thornburg’s timetable is still uncertain and the Red Sox will be very cautious with his rehab. One thing is for sure- he will be more determined than ever and the Sox could be in store for something special. Getting him back to where he was in 2016 could be better than any trade the Red Sox could make.