MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Tyler Thornburg’s symptoms were borderline terrifying.
The Boston Red Sox relief pitcher finally is back on track after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last June, but it’s been a long and painful road back. Thornburg detailed all the issues Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods.
“Two of the neck muscles were overgrown and kind of squeezing on the brachial plexus and all the nerves run down; I’d be sitting there watching a game, and a nerve thing would just hit me and I’d almost be knocked over by it,” he said. “The first rib was kind of getting pulled up. My hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, it would start turning red, cutting off the blood circulation. And then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves, they just kind of had to go and dissect all of that off of there.”
As part of the process, doctors removed a rib during surgery. Thornburg got to keep the rib as a little souvenir, and it’s in safekeeping at his parents’ house for now, at least until Thornburg figures out what one does with one’s own rib.
“Some people make necklaces out of them, actually — definitely not going to do that,” he said. “It’s a little weird for me, but it’s kind of cool, I guess.”
As far as the recovery goes, Thornburg started throwing again in October. He’s worked his way back up to 120, 140 feet and is hopeful he’ll get a regular spring training. The goal remains to be ready for Opening Day.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox Winter Weekend.
— Eduardo Rodriguez is among the handful of players who beamed about their renewed health. Rodriguez hasn’t started to run again after right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction surgery in October. The initial prognosis had Rodriguez returning after six months, which would have run beyond Opening Day. Rodriguez said Saturday, however, he’s hoping to be ready when the season begins.
— Blake Swihart feels as healthy as he’s been in a long time. An ankle injury has dogged him since the 2016 season when he ran into the wall at Fenway Park. Swihart acknowledged this is the first time he’s felt healthy in a year and a half after that injury, a feeling that was confirmed by his ability to catch back to back games in the Dominican winter league. Swihart still sees himself as a catcher, which is a crowded position group for the Red Sox, but Swihart also is taking ground balls and fly balls, and given his lack of minor league options, his roster situation will be interesting to monitor as spring training begins.
— Drew Pomeranz had the best season of his career in 2017, and if he’s able to build on that this season, he’ll become an even richer man. Pomeranz is entering his walk season, and he’s at least open to staying in Boston for the long term. However, he said there haven’t been talks between himself and the club about an extension.
— Closer Craig Kimbrel is in the same boat, but he said he hasn’t even given his contract situation any thought. He has other things on his mind at the moment.
— For most Red Sox players, they’re meeting new manager Alex Cora for the first time. However, outfielder Bryce Brentz got a chance to play for Cora in Puerto Rico a few years back and shared an interesting anecdote about Cora’s managerial style.
“Seeing the energy he brings and the type of person he is, we’ll run through a wall. We’ll be all right. We’re gonna get after it for sure. … I remember one time, he got into us, we were getting close to the playoffs. Even though it was in Spanish, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what he was telling us. The passion is there, there’s no doubt about that.”
— Red Sox ace Chris Sale is in favor of MLB’s attempts to speed up the game with a pitch clock. That’s not a huge surprise given Sale is one of the fastest-working pitchers in baseball. According to FanGraphs, only five qualified starters worked at a faster pace than Sale in 2017.
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