How Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg Affected Red Sox’s Trade Deadline Approach

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BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox seemingly had the back end of their bullpen set this past offseason.

Craig Kimbrel, of course, would be the team’s closer, while newcomer Tyler Thornburg, who was acquired by the Red Sox via trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in December, was poised to be the set-up man. And Carson Smith, who missed nearly all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was set to return and provide late-game relief help.

But unfortunately for the Red Sox, things didn’t turn out according to plan. Smith still has yet to return, while Thornburg will miss the entire season due to a shoulder injury.

Boston’s bullpen weathered the storm for the first four months of the season, but the team finally addressed its relief-pitching needs by acquiring Addison Reed from the New York Mets on Monday. Reed will take the reins as Boston’s eighth-inning man, giving the back end of the Red Sox’s bullpen a true identity.

Speaking with the media prior to Monday’s game, Dave Dombrowski acknowledged the absence of Thornburg and Smith did have an affect on how he operated at the trade deadline. The Red Sox president of baseball operations noted the plan entering the season was to have Thornburg as the set-up man, but his injury created a major void, prompting the move for Reed.

But while Thornburg won’t see action this year, the book hasn’t been completely closed on Smith. As Red Sox manager John Farrell expressed Friday, Smith is inching towards a return to the mound.

“We want to see him get hitters,” Farrell said. “I think to me, and this has been in my conversations with Carson, you throw in almost artificial settings off the mound. There comes a point where you didn’t compete. That’s what rehab is for. He might not feel completely in-sync delivery wise, but that’s getting into game situations and feeling the game speed to help make some of those minor adjustments. I think we’re getting closer to that. The fact that he’s going to have some hitters stand in today, not necessarily live, but we’re getting close to the point of having him get out in live game action.”

If Smith is able to return for Boston’s playoff push, the Red Sox’s bullpen would be well-equipped to not only make the postseason but make a deep playoff run.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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