Tyler Thornburg enters the 2019 season with everything to prove.
When the Red Sox traded infielder Travis Shaw to the Brewers for Thornburg prior to the 2017 campaign, they expected the right-hander to serve as a reliable set-up man for closer Craig Kimbrel. That expectation did not become a reality.
Thornburg missed the entire 2017 season with thoracic outlet syndrome and did not rejoin the Sox bullpen until July of 2018. The 30-year-old struggled mightily in his return, posting a 5.63 ERA in 25 relief appearances and failing to crack the postseason roster.
With a clean slate entering the new season, Thornburg needs this to be the year he figures things out if he's to finally solidify a role in the Red Sox pen. Thornburg's $1.75 million contract isn't guaranteed until he makes the Opening Day roster, and he's fresh out of minor league options.
“In the situation I’m in right now, I technically have to be ready pretty early to show 'em, ‘Hey, I’m back basically.’ But then I have to be ready to pitch until November," Thornburg told MassLive.
“Normally spring training is to get ready for the season. I just have to come in with a little bit different mindset of just trying to be a little bit more competitive during spring training. A little bit more fully ready. Maybe throw two, three, four more bullpens by the time I get down there. Just so everything’s a little bit more sharp. That way I can show 'em that I’m where I need to be at the beginning of spring training and not have them have to worry about, ‘Is he going to be there taking the whole spring training to kind of figure that out?’ ”
Boston Red Sox
Dave Dombrowski named Thornburg as an in-house candidate to win the closer job along with Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier. If Dombrowski is true to his word, that would make a bounce-back season out of Thornburg even more imperative for a Red Sox team that isn't exactly striking fear in its opponents with its bullpen as currently constructed.
Even though his 2018 comeback didn't go as planned, Thornburg doesn't appear to be lacking confidence. This time around, he expects to be one of the Sox' breakout stars.
“It’s different every year," Thornburg said. “You always expect certain things from guys. And there’s always someone who comes out the woods basically that saves the season. Brasier last year. With where I’m at right now, I should be one of those guys who should be relied on pretty heavily.”
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