The Boston Red Sox bullpen has been a bit up and down this year. After finishing 2017 as the 4th best bullpen in the MLB, according to ESPN’s metrics, they’ve kicked off 2018 with a bit of a mixed bag, and the same questions from last year still remain.
As a unit, they gave of 6 runs in the 8th inning on Opening Day in a gut punch of a collapse after a brilliant start by Chris Sale. Since then they’ve featured in all 9 games, in which 3 of them they went scoreless, 2 of them they gave up only 1 run, and the other 4 they’ve allowed 2 or more. Add it all up and you’ve got a 4.40 bullpen ERA, good for 20th in the league.
What this tells us is how much another reliable arm could help this unit, and how much it could provide for the Red Sox as a whole going forward.
Enter Tyler Thornburg, the heralded but unproven entity that Boston acquired in 2016 and who missed all of 2017 with shoulder issues.
Thornburg is continuing to work his way back at extended Spring Training down in Ft. Myers, Florida and reached a particularly encouraging milestone on Monday when he reached 95 mph with his fastball.
To understand what Thornburg could provide to the Sox, you’d have to take a look at his time with the Brewers, where he posted a 2.87 ERA over 144 games. During that time, he kept a 1.19 WHIP and an impressive 9.1 K/9, and he was especially imposing in 2016 with a 2.15 ERA, .94 WHIP and over 12 K/9. He needs to bring down his career 3.73 BB/9 and .259 BABIP numbers to become especially effective in the later innings of important games, but all-in-all he’s a talented player who could be a valuable asset.
He’s still a ways off from making his MLB debut with the Sox, though. Alex Cora is quoted as saying, “…he’s still in his progression. Still changeup is not there yet,” and the Red Sox aren’t expected to make a decision regarding a minor league rehab assignment until next week at the earliest.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the situation and posting any updates as necessary.