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Thornburg expects to be ready for Opening Day

Reliever excited to get back on mound after missing 2017 season
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg, who wasn't able to throw a single pitch last season, is confident that he'll be in the bullpen when the Red Sox open their 2018 season at Tropicana Field on March 29.

"That's the goal, 100 percent," Thornburg said Saturday from Red Sox Winter Weekend, "as long as there are no setbacks or anything like that. I know I've pressed the issue -- whether it's weight lifting, shoulder program, throwing, everything like that -- and I haven't had any adverse effects from doing that. So as long as I'm not having any negative things, I'm going to continue to push the envelope and get as ready as possible."

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg, who wasn't able to throw a single pitch last season, is confident that he'll be in the bullpen when the Red Sox open their 2018 season at Tropicana Field on March 29.

"That's the goal, 100 percent," Thornburg said Saturday from Red Sox Winter Weekend, "as long as there are no setbacks or anything like that. I know I've pressed the issue -- whether it's weight lifting, shoulder program, throwing, everything like that -- and I haven't had any adverse effects from doing that. So as long as I'm not having any negative things, I'm going to continue to push the envelope and get as ready as possible."

The return of Thornburg would give the Red Sox even more depth for a talented setup crew that includes Carson Smith, Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes in front of All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.

Kimbrel motivated, focused on daughter

Getting back on the mound will be therapeutic for Thornburg. Not having a season last year was tough to take for the righty, whom Boston acquired to be the eighth-inning setup man in a trade that sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee.

"Really tough," said Thornburg. "Especially getting traded over to a new team and that whole situation. You always want to impress in your first season, things like that. It was pretty tough, especially the way it all kind of worked out. ... Just having to, like, watch the games, especially playoffs, that kind of thing is tough, it really is -- especially when you see situations you could have helped in or you feel like you could have helped in."

Thornburg's right shoulder started bothering him early on in Spring Training. And every time he felt like he was getting better on Minor League rehab assignments, there would be a setback.

At last, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, and he had surgery to repair it in June.

"So I had a bunch of things going on in there. Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus where all the nerves run down," said Thornburg. "I'd be sitting there watching a game, and just a nerve thing would hit me, and I'd almost get knocked over by it.

"As well as the first rib was getting pulled up, and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves, they had to go and dissect all that off there."

Thornburg now has a rib on display, by the way.

"I actually got to keep the rib. It's a lot smaller than you'd think," Thornburg said. "Some people make necklaces out of them. Definitely not going to do that -- that's a little weird. But it's kind of cool I guess."

Where is the rib?

"It's at my parents' place. You have to do a cleaning protocol to preserve it so it doesn't turn colors," said Thornburg. "So we have it in a little jar sitting there on the counter."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Tyler Thornburg