Red Sox

Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie a local success story

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Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie a local success story

BOSTON — Their pitching coach was under their nose the whole time.

The Red Sox announced on Nov. 2 that Dana LeVangie would reprise his role as bullpen coach in 2018 under new manager Alex Cora. Six days later, LeVangie — the bullpen coach for five years under former John Farrell — has been elevated to pitching coach, replacing Carl Willis.

The 48-year-old LeVangie drew interest from other organizations this winter and could wind up a bench coach and then a manager someday. So far, he’s only known one organization: the 2018 season will be his 28th with the Sox.

MORE: Cora plans to walk fine line between friendship and authority

Cora had no desire to let LeVangie go anywhere else, either.

"Very impressed with Dana since when I played here," Cora said Wednesday. "He understands the game. Seems like we talk the same language as far as the game. When everyone started talking about me being a manager, he was a guy I always considered would be part of my staff. He is well prepared and versatile enough that he can work with catchers and be a pitching coach."

Born in Brockton and currently an East Bridgewater resident, LeVangie has stayed in the area the whole time. He went to college first at Cape Cod Community before transferring to American International. 

The Sox drafted LeVangie in the 14th round in 1991. He played in the Sox system for six years, reaching as high as Triple-A. From 1997-2004 he was the Sox' major league bullpen catcher. Then he was a pro scout for a year, and a major league advance scout for seven, through 2012.

“I guess being a local kid, being a Red Sox fan growing up, having a not-so-successful high school career but [being] more successful in my college days, getting drafted by the Boston Red Sox, playing six years in the minor leagues, going into my 28th year — it’s been an incredible ride,” LeVangie said. “I’ve done a lot of things for the team. I’ve enjoyed every role I’ve served in. 

“This is something I didn't envision myself doing. But I think my experience throughout the game, experience dealing with the players has grown throughout my time and I guess more than anything my commitment to the players, my commitment to the pitchers just continues to drive me to be the best [person i can to put these pitchers and players in position to have success. It keeps going forward and I’m just happy for the opportunity.”

What makes LeVangie a rarity is his catching background. Most pitching coaches were, well, pitchers.

LeVangie might not have learned more at any other time in his career than when he was the bullpen catcher. 

“It allowed me to really lock in on mechanics, movement of the baseball, spin of the baseball, identifying specifics of a pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses,” LeVangie said. “And trying to identify what makes a pitcher have success and continued success. So, I think back in the day I started to learn that. I’ll continue to learn more as we go forward, but, you know, I’ve learned a lot from Jason [Varitek] throughout the days of my time here, communicating with him. But you know I think our, as baseball coaches as baseball people, we use our eyes. The eyes usually tell us a lot of the things we want to know and our eyes will tell us a lot of the information that’s out now: spin rates and movement and how we can make these guys successful. So I don’t think it’s going to be a big adjustment, but it’s something I’ve worked hard at: trying to identify things sooner rather than later. So it will be an easier adjustment for me.”

Cora said the Sox are considering internal and external candidates to fill the bullpen coach vacancy, the lone one remaining on the staff. 

Brian Bannister remains in the organization, but Cora did not specify whether Bannister will be in uniform again next year. Bannister's most recent title was dual: vice President of pitching development and assistant pitching coach. He's a pitch data expert as well as an ex-big leaguer.

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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 he 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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