Red Sox

Mullen: 'We'll never see another' like Johnny Pesky

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Mullen: 'We'll never see another' like Johnny Pesky

I used to tell people, if you ever wanted a vicarious ego boost, walk into a crowded room with Johnny Pesky. I was only half-joking. The immediate reaction Johnny would receive was unlike just about anything I had ever seen or heard for anyone else. It was as heart-warming and genuine as it was loud.

It was also well-deserved.

After writing a book with Johnny a few years ago, I had the pleasure and honor of walking into crowded rooms with him on several occasions. I consider myself very fortunate to have had that vicarious experience.

I consider myself even more fortunate to have called Johnny Pesky a friend. I am certain the world especially the baseball world will never see another like him.

Growing up in Lynn, I often heard about Johnny Pesky, even though his playing days were done by then. The Oregon native had become an adopted and favorite -- son of the North Shore. Marrying a Lynn girl, they adopted a son, and had a large extended family. One of the first times I saw Johnny Pesky around town was in church, sitting at the end of my pew. I was pretty young at the time, but I was old enough to know who he was. It was probably my father who pointed him out to me. Im pretty sure I probably behaved a little better in Mass that day. Later in life, I told Johnny that story, drawing a loud laugh from him. He said, "Tell you parents I said Youre welcome.

Johnny added to his family with the friends he attracted throughout his life. These were people from all walks and ages. It didnt matter to Johnny how much money you made, how old you were, what you did for a living, the color of your skin, or if you were a woman covering baseball. If he liked you, he liked you. And there werent too many people he didnt like.

And, if he did like you, you could tell by the wisecracks youd get from him. That, too, didnt matter who you were. But, it was all in jest. Johnny almost never uttered a negative word.

He had an impressive baseball career a .307 average, with a .394 on-base percentage over 10 seasons. In 1,270 games, he struck out just 218 times. He led the American League in base hits three times his first three seasons, when he had over 200 hits each year and was among the top 10 in on-base percentage in six of his 10 season. The Rookie of the Year Award did not exist in 1942, but he would have been an excellent candidate for it, with a .331 average, 105 runs scored, a .375 OBP, and .416 slugging percentage.

He also would have been an excellent candidate for the Hall of Fame, too, if he hadnt given up three full seasons to military service, enlisting in the Navy during World War II when he was 23.

Throughout his life, though, Johnny steadfastly maintained he would have done nothing differently. Serving his country was the right thing to do. He had a good life, a happy life, and hed be the first to tell you that, he always said.

Johnny began his career as a clubhouse kid for a team in Portland, where he shined shoes for players such as Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, who would later become his teammates and lifelong friends. Johnny never won a World Series as player but, with Carl Yastrzemski, raised the Red Sox 2004 World Series banner on Opening Day in 2005 at Fenway Park.

Johnnys association with the Red Sox spanned seven decades as a player, coach, manager, minor league instructor, broadcaster, and all-around goodwill ambassador. He was easily the most popular person to ever put on a Red Sox uniform. Kids whose parents never even saw Johnny play were awed to meet him.

One of my favorite stories about Johnny isnt even mine. Its my Dads. In the hospital as a young boy, my father told my grandmother he couldnt talk to her because the Red Sox were on the radio and Ted Williams was on-deck, meaning Johnny was at-bat. When I told Johnny the story, he replied, I better have gotten on-base or that expletive would have killed me! Johnny could refer to Williams as an expletive in a way that only lifelong friends can.

Meeting Johnny for breakfast or sitting in his living room on a snowy winter day listening to him talk baseball, the stories he could tell, the names he could drop without a hint of being a name-dropper were truly a joy. But, he made sure it wasnt just about him, asking about me, my family, other friends, how everyone was doing, like a good friend does.

Up until recent years, when the trip became too arduous for him, Johnny would sit for hours in uniform every day on a folding chair in the Fort Myers sun signing autographs. He would continue signing as long as there was someone who wanted his signature. The line often moved slowly as Johnny chatted, asking questions of those who sought his signature, taking pictures with them, or signing multiple items for the folks in line. He never charged a dime. Wouldnt think of it.

With Johnnys passing, its the end of an era. For baseball. For the Red Sox. For all his friends. He will truly be missed.

Godspeed, Johnny. Youve earned it.

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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