Heath Hembree

Heath Hembree not giving up on pitching again in 2019 after going on IL

Heath Hembree not giving up on pitching again in 2019 after going on IL

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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Here's the Red Sox' post-deadline bullpen after Heath Hembree hits IL

Here's the Red Sox' post-deadline bullpen after Heath Hembree hits IL

Rather than add relievers ahead of a crucial series against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox are going in the other direction.

The Red Sox placed right-hander Heath Hembree on the 10-day disabled list Friday with right lateral elbow inflammation, recalling right-hander Josh Smith from Triple-A Pawtucket to take his place.

Hembree had allowed three runs over his last two outings and was seen shaking his right arm after his appearance Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

More troubling for the Red Sox, though, is who they have left in their bullpen after declining to add a reliever before Wednesday's MLB trade deadline.

Here's a look at their bullpen as of Friday afternoon:

- Matt Barnes (4.01 ERA)
- Brandon Workman (2.08 ERA)
- Nathan Eovaldi (6.93 ERA)
- Josh Taylor (3.86 ERA)
- Darwinzon Hernandez (2.25 ERA)
- Marcus Walden (3.64 ERA)
- Colten Brewer (4.40 ERA)

Workman has been the most consistent pitcher in this group and Barnes is coming off a strong July, but it's still not an inspiring list.

Eovaldi has allowed five runs over 3.2 innings since converting to a reliever, while middle relievers like Walden and Brewer have been hit-or-miss.

Given the lack of talent here, you probably won't be surprised to learn Boston ranks 17th in baseball with a 4.55 bullpen ERA and dead last in save percentage at 52.5 percent.

Nonetheless, this is the group the Red Sox will live and die by over the last two months as they attempt to claw their way to a second Wild Card spot.

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Red Sox injury: Heath Hembree followed by trainer as he exits outing vs Rays

Red Sox injury: Heath Hembree followed by trainer as he exits outing vs Rays

Heath Hembree had a shaky ninth inning against the Rays Thursday night. He gave up a home run to Austin Meadows and had to work his way out of a two-out jam with runners at first and second. 

After he got out of the ninth, he was seen shaking his right arm walking off the field, and then a trainer followed him down into the clubhouse. 

The severity of Hembree's arm injury is not yet known, but we will update this story as information becomes available. 

If Hembree is lost for an extended time, it is not good news for a Red Sox bullpen that has struggled all season with Hembree's relatively consistent production. 

The Red Sox elected not to make a move at the trade deadline to bolster their starting rotation or add a reliever to the bullpen. 

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