Red Sox

Drellich: If Red Sox lose division, don't compare them to 2011

Drellich: If Red Sox lose division, don't compare them to 2011

BOSTON — If the Red Sox lose the division, don’t call it a collapse. Don’t compare this team to 2011's, unless you're talking about the most basic commonalities: there was a lead in September and they didn’t hold it.

The Sox have never been head and shoulders better than the Yankees, at least not since the season got rolling. The Sox soared in August while the Yanks were trying to coax Aaron Judge out of a prolonged slump. 

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The 2011 Sox had the majors’ best offense, just as the 2016 version did. If you entered September believing these Sox, the 2017 version, would run away with the division, you have already realized your folly.

Don’t be too sad. Who doesn’t enjoy a little down-to-the-wire jockeying?

Nonetheless, you should have known better. The smoke-and-mirrors trick the Sox offense pulled off in August was pretty convincing, though. 

Eduardo Nunez will prove human, and has started to. Rafael Devers has hit a point where there’s reason to wonder if he’d start at third base in any potential playoff games. Christian Vazquez was otherworldly.

So at a certain point — now, yesterday, three months ago — it comes down to Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Andrew Benintendi has carried his weight, and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s been on and off, but a better performer than both Betts and Bogaerts offensively. 

“Just not being consistent,” Betts said Monday after a 1-for-5 performance in a 10-4 loss to the Blue Jays. “Not swinging at good pitches. I mean, pretty much doing a whole bunch of things you’re not supposed to do.”

The starting pitching has been a rock all year. To think now that it's truly falling apart is over the top. The rotation has been a bedrock, and that's reason to believe in the group on a whole — even if Porcello’s proclivity for allowing home runs is distressing.

“Our guys are well aware of where we stand and what's transpired particularly over the last couple of weeks,” John Farrell said. “We're going through a stretch here where a couple turns through the rotation have been not as consistent and when we fall behind early in ballgames, the difficulty in being able to dig out of some of those holes is there. Of late, and this is probably more surprising than anything, is the number of balls that are going out of the ballpark. That hasn't been there all year and the last couple of weeks, it's been more dramatic certainly.”

Porcello took full blame for Monday’s loss, and said the Sox got their rear ends handed to them. They did. He did, certainly, with 10 hits surrendered in 5 1/3 innings, including three home runs — one to a No. 9 hitter who entered the day batting .182.

It was the kind of game that, even in a sport that avoids the rah-rah, seemed to be begging for a team meeting. Farrell said the Sox had one just four days earlier, although declined to detail it.

“There has been one. That was as recently as four days ago,” Farrell said. “The thing that we do frequently is that when we prepare for a city, for a team, for an opponent, we do have an opportunity to meet and those are regular.”

Maybe yelling and screaming would do no good at this point. Hitting more would. 

The division’s far from locked up. If the Yankees grab it, don’t make comparisons to 2011. Those Sox looked like juggernauts. These Sox look like a good team that tricked people into thinking they're more.

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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