It’s been a surprisingly good start for the Red Sox bullpen, but the former Brewers time may be up.
As the subject of one of Dave Dombrowski’s more controversial trades, Thornburg has dealt with difficulties throughout his tenure with the Red Sox. It all began with being diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition that effects a small percentage of pitchers with a virtually non-existent success rate. He underwent surgery and didn’t make his return to the Major League club until 2018.
Last season was the reliever’s first healthy year, but inconsistency plagued the former shutdown arm to the tune of a 5.63 ERA over 25 appearances. Opposing batters hit .295 against Thornburg, but the large portion of his results were attributed to general rust, a reason that is logical to even the more impatient of Red Sox fans. However, 2019 has been more of the same for the once-promising reliever.
Through April, Thornburg has posted a 8.53 ERA over 12 appearances. In fact, he’s allowing the hardest contact (48.5% of batted balls are “hard contact”), the highest exit velocity (90.7), and highest percentage of barrels (12.1%) of his career. What may be worse than the numbers is the fact that he seems to be losing rapport with his manager. Per Baseball Reference, Alex Cora has deployed the struggling reliever in 12 appearances, 10 of which can be classified as “low leverage” opportunities.
In his most recent outings against the Oakland Athletics, Thornburg struggled in these particular opportunities and forced the Red Sox to warm up an additional reliever.
It may be just the beginning of May, but the Boston Red Sox will be nearing a situation where they’ll need to trim the active roster. Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, Dustin Pedroia, and Brian Johnson are all expected to be nearing returns within the next few weeks. While there are obvious moves, there is danger in being near the bottom – and Thornburg is near the bottom. He’s been out-performed by the likes of Marcus Walden, and other fringe roster relievers, and may ultimately end up as the odd man out.
Make no mistake, if it comes down to a decision between Tyler Thornburg and rising rookie, Michael Chavis, we will have seen the last of the former Milwaukee Brewer in Boston.