ST. PETERSBURG -- In the upcoming days, Red Sox manager Alex Cora will continue a conversation he started with Craig Kimbrel early in Spring Training about using the closer in some more non-traditional situations.The topic was timely on Friday, one day after Boston's bullpen allowed six runs in the bottom
ST. PETERSBURG -- In the upcoming days, Red Sox manager Alex Cora will continue a conversation he started with Craig Kimbrel early in Spring Training about using the closer in some more non-traditional situations.
The topic was timely on Friday, one day after Boston's bullpen allowed six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 6-4 loss. Kimbrel never warmed up.
Cora is a believer in using his closer in high-leverage situations before the ninth inning. But Kimbrel had an abbreviated Spring Training due to spending three weeks in Boston while his daughter recovered from heart surgery.
Therefore, Cora didn't want to rush Kimbrel into game situations he's not entirely comfortable with so quickly. Kimbrel pitched in just two Grapefruit League games.
"That's a topic we're going to catch up on probably in the upcoming days and show some information, show some data, and we go from there," Cora said. "[Kimbrel]'s a guy that we feel can get anybody out. We'll talk about it obviously, but as of now we know where we're at with him. The good thing is we understand why, not only for him, but for the group, that we need this guy to be healthy. And when he's full go -- I hate to say it because now [Rays manager Kevin Cash] knows what's going on -- but, when he's ready, he's ready and he's a full go."
Kimbrel is accustomed to mainly pitching the ninth, but Cora thinks the hard-throwing righty will come around on a more wide-ranging role.
"You've got to present the data," Cora said. "I read somewhere, his first seven years were up there with the greatest relievers of all time. So you've gotta respect that, you know? There's certain information that is out there that he needs to see. I'm not saying it's hard, but you have to present information to these guys.
"He's been doing it for so long and he's been successful, but at the same time the game has changed and the way people think has changed. But I guarantee you Andrew Miller, it just didn't happen just like that. You have to sit down with them, explain the situations and go from there. Everything is about communication."
Thornburg could return in a month
One pitcher who would have helped the Red Sox during the eighth inning on Thursday was a healthy Tyler Thornburg. The righty is working his way back steadily and threw in a Minor League game in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday. It was Thornburg's first time pitching in a game since he underwent surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder.
"Command was off, up in the zone, but he finished strong, healthy, like the whole spring," Cora said. "We'll see tomorrow where he's at. We'll see what is next up."
In a radio interview on Friday, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Thornburg could be back with the team in roughly a month.
Rotating the reserves
Cora is going to prevent his bench players from getting rusty this year. Catcher Sandy Leon is expected to start on Saturday, and first baseman Mitch Moreland should start the final two games of this four-game series against Tampa Bay.
J.D. Martinez, who was the DH the first two games, could get some action in the outfield. Cora is very mindful of the fact the Red Sox are opening the season on the turf of Tropicana Field.
"We were talking earlier, I was talking to some of the players -- going from Fort Myers [Fla.], to this surface is not easy and we have Eduardo [Nunez], we have Raffy [Devers], although he's 21, he slid into the catcher that day," Cora said. "We have to make a conscious effort that when we leave this place, they'll be OK. They're not going to be 100 percent, because that surface is hard and we've seen what happened the last few years with [Josh] Donaldson in Toronto. When they went to Montreal, it takes him a while to recover. We've got to make sure these guys are OK on their way to Miami."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.