Red Sox

Rare stumbles by Bard, Aceves lead to Sox loss

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Rare stumbles by Bard, Aceves lead to Sox loss

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Despite being loaded with unfavorable possibilities, its an equation that has worked out well for the Red Sox this season. Starting pitcher cant go deep in the game? Need someone to enter in a difficult situation? Need a potentially rally quieted? Red Sox manager Terry Francona has not hesitated to plug Alfredo Aceves or Daniel Bard into high-leverage situations.

Entering Thursdays series finale against the Yankees, Aceves had earned the win in 18 consecutive relief decisions since June 7, 2009. His last loss in relief was on May 26, 2009, with the Yankees in Texas. He was 9-1 with two saves and a 2.83 ERA in 43 games (39 relief appearances) for the Sox this season.

Bard, with a 2.03 ERA, had retired 45 of the 59 first batters he had faced, a 76-percent success rate. He had allowed just 3 of the 29 runners he had inherited to score. His 31 holds led the American League.

So, to watch them both falter against the Yankees Thursday night was surprising. Aceves took the loss, as the Yankees beat the Sox, 4-2. Bard suffered his third blown save, allowing both of the runners he inherited from Aceves to score.

With Jon Lester, who threw 43 pitches in the first inning (a career first-inning high), able to get through just five innings, on 114 pitches, Aceves entered to start the sixth with the Sox leading, 2-1. He faced six batters, but kept the Yankees off the scoreboard. He left the bases loaded when he got Robinson Cano to ground out on a ball scorched to Jed Lowrie at third base.

With one out in the seventh, Andruw Jones battled Aceves for a 14-pitch walk, fouling off nine offerings. After he hit the next batter, Jesus Montero, making his major league debut, Aceves night was done.

Bard entered in the difficult position of having two runners on to face Russell Martin. After getting Martin down, 0-and-2, swinging at two sliders, Bard threw three consecutive balls before Martin doubled to right, scoring Chris Dickerson (pinch-running for Jones) and Montero.

The 1-2 pitch I thought wasa pretty good pitch, maybe an inch off, Bard said. I guess plate umpire Alfonso Marquez got it right. But a good pitchers pitch. And then 3-2, threw him a really good slider and he was able to stay back and fouled it off. And then, obviously, the next fastball caught too much of the plate. I thought I made two really good two-strike pitches on him and just didnt put him away.

A single to Eric Chavez, pinch-hitting for No. 9 batter Eduardo Nunez, scored Martin, giving the Yankees a 4-2 advantage. Bard struck out Derek Jeter, looking at a 97-mph fastball, and Curtis Granderson grounded out to Marco Scutaro at short.

But the Yankees had done all the damage they would need to do. With the loss, Aceves fell to 9-2, while Bard was charged with a blown save.

For catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Aceves and Bard approached their outings in their usual fashions.

They went after guys, said Saltalamacchia. We went after them with everything we had. Alfredo had a what, 15-, 16-, it felt like 100-pitch at-bat with Andruw Jones. So that was a good at-bat for him, kept fouling, fouling. We had to figure something to throw at him and we threw a couple of curveballs. He took some good pitches, got a walk and that kind of started their inning for them, I think.

Daniel came in, threw his fastball, like he normally does. Got ahead of some guys. Threw a good 1-2 pitch to Martin that we both felt was a pretty good pitch. But we dont give up. We still got to go after them and get the outs. They just got some key hits.

With several long at-bats with high pitch counts, it can be difficult for a catcher to know what pitch to call for next.

Its tough, Saltalamacchia said. Hitters get better as the at-bats go. You see more pitches. You start to get a little more comfortable. But they battled. Its as simple as that. They went up there tonight and fouled some pitches off. Kept their bats alive and made us kind of earn those outs. We pretty much earned every out we had to get.

The two runs charged to Aceves snapped a career-high string of 13 13 scoreless innings and eight scoreless appearances. It was just the third time he has allowed two earned runs or more in 40 relief appearances this season, the last on July 19 at Baltimore.

His stuffs good, Francona said. He nicked Montero. That ends up being really big. When youre pitching in a game like that, when the scores close, you cant just, again against the Yankees, you have to kind of pick your spots and try to maneuver it around. We have a lot of confidence in him thats why hes pitching there.

Martins two-run double in the seventh off Bard sealed the game.

Down 0-2 he worked his way back into the count like good hitters do and got a fastball up for a huge hit, Francona said. Theres a lot of things that happened -- to Montero the ball that just hit his uniform . . . Bard comes in in a lot of difficult spots. When he gives up a hit -- thats why we have him in there, youre going to give up a hit sooner or later.

Bard, though, has struggled against the Yankees. In 26 career outings against New York, spanning 23 innings, he has allowed 11 earned runs, for a 4.30 ERA, with seven home runs. In seven outings this season, spanning seven innings, he has a 3.86 ERA -- 1.71 runs higher than his season 2.15 ERA.

Its frustrating, Bard said. You want to come in and shut them down but its never easy coming in with two guys on. Im not making excuses but I think Ive done pretty well with inherited runners up to this point and at some point its going to fall and you're going to give up a couple. Im not going to worry about it. Ill move on and come back tomorrow.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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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