The Boston Red Sox got some help in the bullpen Wednesday, and they didn’t even have to go outside the organization to get him.
Tyler Thornburg was activated from the disabled list Wednesday, making his Red Sox debut imminent. Since being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the 2017 season, issues with his shoulder have kept him sidelined.
But after taking his time to return and going through multiple rehab stints, it appears both he and the Red Sox are confident in his health and ready to send him back out to the mound.
Before coming to Boston, Thornburg was one of the best eighth-inning arms in baseball. In addition to a mid-90’s fastball, he has a devastating curveball that keeps hitters way off balance. It obviously would be tough to put him back in that eighth inning role right away, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get opportunities in higher-leverage situations sooner rather than later.
During an appearance on WEEI’s “Dale & Keefe” on Thursday, Sox manager Alex Cora shared how he plans to utilize the 29-year-old.
“I feel that (he’s a) great addition,” Cora said. “Obviously this guy was dominant when he was in Milwaukee and I know a lot of people were waiting for him to come back. I don’t know if you guys pay attention, Heath Hembree is becoming one of our best relievers. If you look at the month of June I think he struck out 30 guys in 14 innings, and we’ve been using him kind of like a bridge to get to (Matt) Barnes and Joe (Kelly).
“Now with Tyler, I see him in the same role and obviously the more he throws and if he dominates he’s going to grow into being one of those guys late in games,” Cora added. “But he can help us get the ball to those three guys late in the game. Come in, if there’s a lefty his breaking ball and that fastball up plays and he can get them out and then he can give us one more inning. And we’re going to have to be careful at the same time, but we can combine him with Heath and I do feel that we’re going to have another capable guy of getting outs in the middle of the game and get us to that last third, which is very important.”
Thornburg getting back to form certainly would be a major addition for the Red Sox, given any team poised to make a deep run needs as many reliable arms in the bullpen as possible. And though Kelly and Barnes mostly have done well in the seventh and eighth innings this season, adding a fully healthy Thornburg into the fold won’t hurt at all.