BOSTON -- When the ninth inning of Thursday's 7-6 victory over the Rangers rolled around, Red Sox manager Alex Cora summoned a perplexing name.
With one of Cora's most effective recent relievers sitting in the bullpen, speculation immediately turned to why Heath Hembree didn't get the call. It turns out the right-hander had felt tightness in his forearm while warming in the seventh and both player and team decided to shut things down for the night.
Smith hit the first batter he faced before settling down to the record the first save of his career. As for Hembree, he sounded cautiously optimistic he won't be sidelined long.
"I'm not worried about it at all," he said. "It feels like a soreness, but it was a little bit more than that. I've pitched with aches and stuff before, but it was just a little bit more than that. It was a situation that felt best not pitching anymore tonight."
Hembree has been one of the team's most effective relievers since changing his pitch mix in late April to feature his fastball more and his slider less. Since April 25, he has cut his ERA more than in half, from 5.56 to 2.51. He's 1-0 in his last 20 games with a miniscule 0.52 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.
He said he hadn't experienced any soreness until the game. He met with doctors afterwards and insisted everything is fine, but also hedged a little bit.
"Nobody's worried, I'm not worried," he said. "We'll see tomorrow. I know the difference in, I guess, a good pain and a bad pain. I guess you could say it was more of a good pain, but it was something that wasn't worth pushing any further than we did."
Could he miss a few games?
"We'll see how it is (Friday)," he said. "I might wake up tomorrow and it feels great and I'm in there tomorrow, but we're just going to kind of see how it goes day by day right now."
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