Red Sox

Nation STATion: Sox have inherited problems

480912.jpg

Nation STATion: Sox have inherited problems

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

Last night, two events occurred almost simultaneously in the eighth innings in Boston and in New York, and the ways the events unfolded tell the story of the season.

In Boston, tiring ace Josh Beckett was on the mound for the home team facing the pesky Baltimore Orioles. The score was tied 4-4. After getting the first out, J.J. Hardy singled, and then Nick Markakis hit a ground rule double to put runners on second and third. Before the dangerous Vladimir Guerrero could come to the plate, oft-used reliever Alfredo Aceves came into the game.

Meanwhile in New York, tiring ace CC Sabathia was on the mound for the home team facing the relentless Tampa Bay Rays. The score was tied 2-2. After getting the first out, Desmond Jennings singled, B.J. Upton hit an infield single, and then, after an eight-pitch at bat, the dangerous Evan Longoria walked to load the bases. At this point, oft-used reliever David Robertson came into the game.

Two pretty similar situations: eighth inning of a tie game, second and third and one out versus bases filled and one out. Its what happened next that was the tipping point.

In Boston, the Red Sox brought the infield in and Guerrero took a strike before he singled up the middle driving home two. Matt Wieters then lined into a double play, but the damage had been done. Going to the bottom of the 8th, the Orioles led, 6-4.

In New York, the Yankees were at double play depth and on the first pitch Ben Zobrist hit a grounder to second that was quickly turned into a 4-6-3 double play, and no damage had been done. Going to the bottom of the eighth, the score remained tied, 2-2.

In Boston, the deflated Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth and ninth and lost 6-4. The clubhouse was gloomy after the game.

In New York, the elated Yankees scored a pair in the 8th and won 4-2. The clubhouse had a postgame celebration as the team had clinched the AL East title.

Games and seasons are often a series of tipping points and we saw the reality of the results going in opposite directions last night. I will let you argue amongst yourselves if you think that Terry Francona should have walked Guerrero in that situation last night. According to the Boston Globes Pete Abraham, Aceves was told to throw pitches off the plate against the free-swinging Guerrero and he left a pitch right over the middle. We all know that its a lot easier to walk a guy like Guerrero when you call for an intentional walk. Because what happened to the Sox was even more deflating. Maureen Mullen on CSNNE.com quotes Francona, Losings hard anyway, but when you lose with the guys you rely on it's tough."

What Tito is referring to is the price a team pays for when a relief allows inherited runners to score. This IRS is the kind of tax that keeps John Boehner up at night. It has a debilitating effect on the pitcher who was relieved, the pitcher who allowed the runs to score, and the team in general. And this has now happened two nights in a row. Tuesday night, in the eighth inning Jonathan Papelbon came in and allowed two runners he inherited from Daniel Bard, and one of his own, to score and the Sox lost 7-5. Last night, Aceves in the eighth allowed two inherited runners to score in the 8th and they lost 6-4.

The IRS has been a season-long taxing problem for the Sox. Here are some examples:

Scott Atchison has allowed 4 of 8 runners to score - 50
Jonathan Papelbon has allowed 3 of 7 runners to score - 43
Alfredo Aceves has allowed 10 of 26 runners to score - 38
Franklin Morales has allowed 6 of 16 runners to score - 38
Dan Wheeler has allowed 6 of 17 runners to score - 35
Felix Doubront has allowed 3 of 9 runners to score - 33
Daniel Bard has allowed 5 of 34 runners to score - 15

Overall, the AL average is 30 percent and the Sox have allowed 29.5 percent of all inherited runners to score. Average is not good enough if you are postseason team.

The problem is, of course, this teams starters have had an inability to go deep all season long. Here is the average numbers of innings pitched per games started for members of the rotation:

Josh Beckett - 6.5
Jon Lester - 6.3
Tim Wakefield - 6.1
Clay Buchholz - 5.9
John Lackey - 5.7
Alfredo Aceves - 5.3
Erik Bedard - 5.0
Andrew Miller - 4.9
Kyle Weiland - 4.3

American League starters average 6.1 innings per start but the Sox starters average only 5.8 which puts more pressure on the bullpen and more opportunities for inherited runners to score.

What makes last nights loss particularly difficult is that Beckett is this teams stopper and the Sox need to win games in which he starts. Here is the record of the team in games started by members of the rotation:

Josh Beckett - 20-9 .690
Clay Buchholz - 9-5 .643
Jon Lester 16-13 .552
Tim Wakefield 12-10 .545
John Lackey 13-14 .481
Erik Bedard 3-4 .429
Alfredo Aceves 1-3 .250
Kyle Weiland 1-4 .200

The pitching situation has been ugly all season long and the problems only are magnified in September when the hitters are simply exhausted from carrying the the team on its back. To put a positive spin on things, the Rays have lost three to the Yankees and the Sox will not lose tonightguaranteed.

I say it every year starting in April, Damn IRS!

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

red-sox-tyler-thornburg-032817x.jpg

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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

cp-red-sox-kimbrel-100917.jpg

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.

MORE RED SOX:

“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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE