If the 2018 Boston Red Sox have one weakness, it’s probably the bullpen.
Help could be on the horizon, however.
Reliever Tyler Thornburg will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Sunday. Thornburg, who Boston acquired via a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016, has yet to throw a regular season pitch in a Red Sox uniform.
The former Brewers right-hander missed all of last season after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder. And although he did extensive work during spring training, Thornburg still has much more to do before he makes his Red Sox debut.
“It’s kind of spring training for him,” Cora said prior to Sunday’s game between Boston and the Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s a process. Obviously we’ll want him to go back-to-back days. It’s a longer process. But the fact that he’s going to be pitching tomorrow, that’s great. Great for him honestly.
“Going into spring training, everybody knew his situation. And for him to grind it out and put himself in this spot is awesome. And obviously for us, it’s great. It’s going to be a great day for him and the organization.”
So, what will the Red Sox be getting when Thornburg returns?
Prior to suffering his shoulder injury, Thornburg was one of the best set-up men in all of Major League Baseball. Utilizing a mid-90s fastball and a biting curveball, he posted a 2.15 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 90 strikeouts and just 25 walks for the Brewers in 2016.
He also recorded 13 saves that season, proving he can handle closer duties when called upon.