The Red Sox announced today that they have recalled the rehabilitation assignment of righty Tyler Thornburg. While the reliever remains on the injured list for the time being, the move begins a two-day period within which the club will have to decide whether to activate him or instead remove him from the MLB roster, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes on Twitter.
Thornburg has been working back from a hip impingement since late May — the latest in a line of health issues that have significantly limited him since he came to Boston in the 2016-17 offseason. He has averaged 94.1 mph on his average fastball this year in the majors, but little else has gone according to plan.
Despite the return to a velocity level that sits just over his career average, Thornburg managed only an 8.6% swinging-strike rate over his 18 2/3 innings. He did record 22 strikeouts, but also handed over ten walks and gave up four long balls. If anything, it might be surprising the ball didn’t leave the yard more often. Opposing hitters tagged Thornburg to the tune of a 92.4 mph average exit velocity, 56.6% hard-contact rate, and 20.4 degree average launch angle.
In all, Thornburg coughed up 7.71 earned per nine in the majors. And his rehab showing at Triple-A hasn’t been any more promising. In 10 2/3 frames there, he was ambushed for a whopping 15 earned runs and five long balls.
It’s possible that the Sox will give Thornburg one more shot to make good at the MLB level. Odds are they’ll decide it’s time to cut bait, even with a relief unit that’s in need of supplementation. Other organizations will surely like to see if they can help the veteran get back to what once made him a quality reliever, though it’s hard to imagine any taking on the remainder of his $1.75MM salary.
Tendering Thornburg in his final season of arb eligibility has proven a regrettable decision for the Red Sox, though it’s understandable the organization sought to recoup some value. Despite turning in questionable results when he was able to pitch in 2018, Thornburg evidently showed enough for the club to think he could rediscover his form. Indeed, over the winter, the club even cited him as a possible member of the late-inning mix.