ST. PETERBURG -- With seven games left in the season, Heath Hembree re-appeared for the Red Sox in Monday's 7-4 loss to the Rays, in which he pitched a perfect 7th inning.
The righty reliever was on the injured list for three weeks in June and then for another seven weeks until his return to the roster for the finale of the four-game series against the Rays. Hembree had been dealing with right elbow woes, and had a PRP (Platelet-rich plasma) injection last month.
Why was it so important for Hembree to come back, even with the Red Sox eliminated from the postseason race?
“Honestly, you don’t want to take playing Major League Baseball for granted,” Hembree said. “I wanted to be healthy and come back and finish out the season with my teammates and they’ve been grinding every day. I’ve been kind of sitting on my ass for the last month and a half. I kind of want to come back and finish it out with my boys a little bit.”
Prior to his initial elbow injury in June, Hembree had been one of Boston’s best relievers, notching a 2.51 ERA in 31 games. The first time Hembree came back he wasn’t nearly the same pitcher, registering a 9.00 ERA in 12 games from July 5-Aug. 1.
“The other time, I still felt it,” said Hembree. “The other time it was like, ‘I can throw a ball so I’ll make it work.’ I wasn’t really at the level that I wanted to be but this time I feel good. We’ll see how it goes.”
Hembree feels much better this time around.
“Yeah, I feel like myself. I’m back to where I wanted to be, where I’m capable of pitching,” Hembree said.
Putting a good outing or two under his belt is important for Hembree going into the offseason.
“I wanted to go into the offseason healthy and knowing I was healthy,” Hembree said. “I felt like pitching in a couple of games here the last week of the season will give me that mindset that I’m good to go and healthy to have a normal Spring Training next year. So I’m just looking forward to that.”
Decision on Darwinzon
There’s a chance that lefty reliever Darwinzon Hernandez has thrown his last pitch of 2019. Hernandez was electric in his first 23 relief appearances after being called up in July, striking out 43 in just 23 1/3 innings while producing a 2.31 ERA from July 16 to Sept. 6.
Of late, the 22-year-old has appeared fatigued, giving up six runs in his last 1 2/3 innings, spread over four outings.
The only time Hernandez might pitch is Tuesday in Texas, when all hands will be on deck as the Red Sox try to get Eduardo Rodriguez his 19th win.
“It just makes sense,” said Cora. “He’s healthy, he looks OK, the life of the fastball is not as it was a few weeks ago so we’ve been talking about it. Obviously we’ll stay away from him today. If anything, we’ll use him tomorrow. If anything. I think we’re leaning towards not using him that much or at all the rest of the season.”