NEW YORK -- This time, Heath Hembree will wait until he's healthy before rejoining the Red Sox.
The right-handed reliever, who emerged as one of Alex Cora's most trusted arms in May before injuring his elbow in early June, was placed on the injured list on Friday after an ineffective outing vs. the Rays.
Hembree was diagnosed with lateral inflammation in his right elbow. Before the series opener at Yankee Stadium, he explained why he simply couldn't pitch through the injury any longer.
"It's the same thing as last time," he said. "I felt like I felt good enough to pitch, it's just something I'd feel good one day, wasn't really able to recover and bounce back and feel like my normal self. It wasn't really worth pushing anymore, let's get it healthy."
Hembree has basically produced three distinct seasons this year. He struggled to a 4.61 ERA in April while throwing too many sliders at the expense of his 95 mph fastball. From May 1 to June 10, he allowed only one run in 17 games (0.60 ERA) while limiting opponents to a .118 average.
But since returning on July 5, Hembree hadn't looked the same. He posted a 9.00 ERA in 12 appearances while allowing opponents to hit .350.
"I can't say it was ever fully completely gone," Hembree said of his injury. "It was there, but I felt like I was good enough to pitch. I would throw one game, and the next morning it was a little bit crankier than the day before. It was just something I was trying to grind through and it just came to a point where it really wasn't worth it anymore."
The last straw was Thursday night against the Rays, when he allowed two hits, a walk, and a home run in a 9-4 loss.
"I think last night, everybody kind of knew," he said. "I was grinding. I was struggling. I came out, met with the trainers, saw the doc last night, and made a decision."
Hembree said an MRI revealed no ligament damage and added that he expects to pitch again in 2019.
"I'm definitely expecting to be back this season," he said. "Just not sure if it's one week, two weeks, three weeks. This time I want to make sure it's completely gone. I want to make sure that there are no symptoms of what I had previously. This time I want to try to do it the right way."
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