Red Sox

First pitch: Reality is it can get worse from here

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First pitch: Reality is it can get worse from here

The losses pile up now, like yesterday's trash, one on top of the other, each indistinguishable from the next.

Nobody mentions the playoffs any more, for good reason -- the Red Sox are now closer in the standings to the worst record in the league (Minnesota) than they are to the team leading the wild card chase (Oakland).

There are now more hollow promises about "getting healthy and making a run,'' no predictions that, pretty soon, things will click.

Those are all gone now. Wednesday's one-sided loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pushed the Red Sox one day closer to the end, one step closer to total irrelevance.

And here's the thing: It can still get worse.

There are still 38 games remaining, almost a quarter of the season. Included in that stretch are 22 road games, almost all against teams with better records.

Actually, when it comes to the home-road split in the final six weeks, location is almost irrelevant. At 29-36, Sox have one of the worst home records in the league.

You name it, and it's a concern. Two games into the Randy Niemann Era, the starting pitching is as poor as it's been all season, though Niemann can hardly be expected to exact an overnight turnaround in performance.

The offense has scored three runs or fewer in 8 of the last 12 games and seem to limit their damage to an inning -- sometimes two -- per night.

The fight seems to have left them. Rallies are almost non-existent; comebacks appear to be a thing of the past. Over the last five games, the Red Sox have been scoreless in 36 of the last 45 innings, or 80 percent of the time.

Injuries, of course, are a factor. David Ortiz remains sidelined and there's no telling how much his mere presence is missed in the middle of the lineup. It doesn't help that Will Middlebrooks, one of just two righthanded regulars with a slugging percentage above .420, is out for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist.

And so, the lineup takes on the look of a split-squad sent to Bradenton on March morning -- journeyman and role players sprinkled in among some regulars in the hopes of passing as a major league lineup.

With Middlebrooks and Carl Crawford gone for the year and Ortiz still at least a few days away, Bobby Valentine is left to mix and match almost daily. In late August.

And it shows.

"We just can't seem to string a good inning together here and there and gain any momentum offensively,'' lamented outfielder Scott Podsednik. "When you look at good offensive clubs, they do that -- they take what's given to them, they grind out at-bats and keep coming at you.

"We're potetnially trying to do too much. Each player is trying to be that guy to get things going and it's counterproductive.''

In part because of the injuries and roster churn, the team lacks an identity, and as such, lacks consistency.

"There's been so many new personalities coming in and trying to jell,'' noted Podsednik. "You've got to have 25 guys, day-in, day-out all on the same page. So, yes, that might have something to do with it. The goal should be, each and every night, is to play for one another, pick each other up. We've had so many new faces, so many guys trying to come in and establish themselves, that I think it's hard for this whole team to get into a good rhythm and get in the right frame of mind to play, day-in and day-out.''

And here's the hard part: It's not over yet. Not by a long shot.

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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