Dave Dombrowski

Working with Pedro Martinez, Tyler Thornburg ready to prove himself to Red Sox

Working with Pedro Martinez, Tyler Thornburg ready to prove himself to Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla.  — The Red Sox are banking on their internal bullpen options to step up and get the job done in 2019. That means without Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly shoring up the back end of the 'pen, opportunity knocks for guys such as Tyler Thornburg. 

It’s been a long road back to normalcy for the right-hander. Thornburg missed all of the 2017 season with thoracic outlet syndrome and simply wasn’t the player Boston traded for when he returned in 2018. He’s happy to be starting the spring off with a clean slate.

“Being like a regular player is actually really fun,” Thornburg told reporters at JetBlue Park. “You know, it’s nice not being in the whole rehab stage, having to hold back in certain areas, and come to the park every day and you know, enjoy it. Not worrying about the two or three hours I have to do to make my arm good enough to throw. It just makes it a lot more fun, honestly.”

Thornburg was dominant in 2016 with the Brewers, when he was last 100-percent healthy. That season, he posted a 2.15 ERA and 0.94 WHIP while earning 13 saves. He’s spent the offseason working on being able to prove this year that he still has that same kind of stuff.

“All day, every day in the offseason was trying to get better,” Thornburg said. “Trying to get to where I know I can be, where I want to be. That was pretty much every day in the offseason for me.”

“Obviously it’s not just the fans [to prove it to],” he continued. “It’s the players, the coaches, the front office people that yeah, they know what I can do, they’ve given me the opportunity, things like that. So yeah, definitely looking forward to actually showing people how I can actually pitch.”

Thornburg certainly is getting the proper guidance in order to get him back to his 2016 self. He talked about what it’s been like to have the great Pedro Martinez giving him tips.

“Weird. It’s one of those things where you kind of just want to hand him the ball,” Thornburg joked. “No I mean it’s really cool.

“The guy obviously did incredible things while he was playing, so any time he opens his mouth, you really want to listen. So, I mean he gave me really good pointers when I was on the mound yesterday. Definitely some things that, you know, I want to think about going forward, all that good stuff. It’s awesome just to have him there, and have him give you some ideas on things.”

But no matter how many pointers Thornburg gets from Martinez, the real key to bouncing back will be patience.

“Yeah, I feel like maybe a couple years into being in the big leagues I kind of had to learn that [patience],” Thornburg said. “That you always have your ups and downs regardless, but especially these last couple years. I think if I hadn’t started being that way early on, the last few years would have been even tougher. But I’m really looking forward to this year after all the downs.”

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski mentioned Thornburg’s name when talking about closer candidates for this season. Is that on Thornburg’s mind this spring?

“Right now, it’s not,” he said. “Right now, it’s all arm, getting mound ready, things like that.”

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Red Sox confident the answer at closer will come from within

Red Sox confident the answer at closer will come from within

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox aren’t searching for an answer to the void left by Craig Kimbrel. They believe they already have it.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has been adamant this offseason that a large expenditure for a closer is unlikely. He reiterated those comments again Wednesday at JetBlue Park, and explained how the team plans on replacing Kimbrel.

“Well, somebody internally, we’re looking to do that,” Dombrowski said. “We have some good arms. We just had a nice meeting in there with some of our pitchers. We have a talented group of individuals.

"Any time you say you’re going to replace a player of Craig Kimbrel’s caliber with the type of talent he has, you just don’t — that’s not easily done. He’s, to me, a future Hall-of-Fame reliever, one of the best closers in the game. But sometimes, other guys get the opportunity and they step up. We have people like [Matt] Barnes, [Ryan] Brasier, that we both think have the abilities to do so. [Tyler] Thornburg has been a good closer in the past, we’ll see how he is in the spring. His health is fine, we’ll see if he can bounce back. Nobody has really seen, to me, Tyler Thornburg that was out there before he joined in Milwaukee. I know everybody’s critical of the situation and I know how things go, but this guy was a really good pitcher. He’s healthy, and he feels great.

"Steven Wright’s a possibility of a guy, depending upon how his health is. So we feel we have some internal options to go ahead and do that, and of course we’ll still keep an eye on what’s taking place outside the camp but we think our answers come from within.”


Will the Red Sox officially name a closer during spring training?

“I would think we would, but it’s not imperative,” said Dombrowski. “I’ve seen clubs that haven’t done it, but I think normally somebody steps up. I think we have enough talent to do it, but you know, the game’s changed sometimes. I can tell you that I was just listening to one report that said their manager chooses to not have one, that he wants to pitch guys with two innings and be able to do that. That’s not necessarily our thought process, but I can’t tell you that doesn’t evolve, but right now we’re looking to have a closer when we leave camp.”

As Dombrowski mentioned, Ryan Brasier is a leading candidate to take over Kimbrel’s closing job. On Wednesday, the right-hander explained his mindset as he prepares to be called upon in an increased role.

“Same as every other camp,” Brasier said. “Just try to get some work done and go into the season ready to go. if it happens, it happens and if not hopefully i’ll be here somewhere else.”

“I feel like every inning, whether it’s the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, I try to do the same thing every time I go out. Obviously, everybody wants to be the closer. But when it gets down to it, everyone has to be a closer at some point. Get out of a tough inning or you know, a tough situation. I’m just looking for the opportunity to get some good innings and have a good year.”


We’ll probably have to wait for spring training to run its course before we know for sure who will take the ball in the ninth inning, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora appears to already be leaning in a certain direction.

“I have a pretty good idea of where we are going to go,” Cora said. “We still have to go through the meetings and let them know what the plan is. Everybody is going to be on board.

“I’m comfortable with the stuff we have,” Cora continued. “Obviously we have to go out there and perform, but we do believe with the talent we have and what we believe as an organization that we are going to be able to get outs.”

Also on board with using internal options to make up for the loss of Kimbrel is ace Chris Sale.

“If [Kimbrel’s] not in the mix, I think we have a handful of guys that can lock down the 9th inning and we have a lot of young guys who can step up as well,” Sale said. “So I think obviously people like to make a big deal about it, but where we sit as players and our staff and our coaches I think we’re confident with the group we have going forward without the additions.”

So whether it be Brasier, Matt Barnes, even Tyler Thornburg or Steven Wright, the Red Sox have made up their mind. The answer will come from within. 

Time will tell whether it’s the correct one.

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Dave Dombrowski cautiously optimistic on Dustin Pedroia, hopeful he’ll be ‘the main guy’ at second base

Dave Dombrowski cautiously optimistic on Dustin Pedroia, hopeful he’ll be ‘the main guy’ at second base

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With so much focus on the Red Sox bullpen situation as spring training gets underway, it’s easy to forget about the question mark that lies at second base.

Besides last year, second base hasn’t been a position where the Red Sox are used to having question marks. Dustin Pedroia’s presence usually would be the last thing to worry about heading into a new season. But with the 13-year veteran playing in only three games in 2018 due to a nagging knee injury, his health will be closely monitored in the days leading up to Opening Day and for many days after.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski provided an update on Pedroia, who he says is expected to report to camp within the next day or two.

“[Pedroia] says he feels good,” Dombrowski said Wednesday at JetBlue Park. “My answer really hasn’t changed throughout the wintertime. He feels good, our medical reports on him are good. Until he gets here day in and day out will we get the chance to see — I don’t think that it’s one day, it’s probably a matter of the build-up, of the pounding on a daily basis and how he handles it.”


As for Pedroia’s workload for the regular season, Dombrowski seems cautiously optimistic. The plan is for Pedroia to be the primary second baseman, with a number of other players stepping in to take the load off his shoulders (and his knee).

“We’re still not looking at a 150-game player,” Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful that he’s a 125-game player at this point. We do feel we have some people who are solid and can fill in. To fill in if [Pedroia] plays 120, guys like [Brock] Holt, a guy like [Eduardo] Nuñez coming over there. Even some depth with Tzu-Wei Lin in our organization we like a great deal. They are also capable of playing more games, that combination. But we’re hopeful that Pedey will be the guy. The main guy.”

Such optimism could indicate Pedroia’s road to recovery is going as smoothly as the team could have hoped for. Of course, when dealing with a player like Pedroia who’s undoubtedly anxious to return to action, there comes a risk of rushing into things which could be counterproductive from a recovery standpoint.

Dombrowski was asked about saving Pedroia from himself. In other words, making sure he doesn’t try to go full speed ahead when he really should be easing back into the grind.

“Well, we discuss it all the time so sure, we have to watch him,” Dombrowski said. “I think, I can’t tell you because I haven’t been around him day in and day out in the winter time, but Pedey’s always driven, he always wants to get out there, but we have already had conversations that we can’t let him push beyond what he’s supposed to do from a medical perspective day in and day out, so we’ll have a program for him. It’ll be very important that he follows it. We’ll talk to him on a daily basis from a medical perspective.”

“He’s had a lot of surgeries, he’s worked really hard,” Dombrowski continued. “I do think that the reality — I think the good communication with people on a consistent basis, Alex [Cora] with him is really good. Alex and he have a great relationship together. They’ve been together for years. So I do think it’s better, but I can’t tell you 100 percent. We just have to be careful in that regard.”

When it comes to Pedroia staying patient as he aims to retain his role as the starting Red Sox second baseman, Chris Sale believes that’s an area Pedroia could use some improvement.

“Ah, man, I think he’s still working on patience,” Sale joked on Wednesday. “He’s one of those guys you can never rule out. I dare you to rule him out, actually. Because he’s out to prove a point this year, and that’s a scary thought.”

Sale is right. Ruling out a former MVP — especially one with Pedroia’s determination — would be foolish. But if everything is to go according to plan with Pedroia and the second base position in 2019, patience will be a virtue.

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