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Boston faces tough contract call on Thornburg

Decision on righty a difficult choice before Friday's non-tender deadline
November 28, 2018

BOSTON -- It was almost two years ago that the Red Sox dealt power-hitting corner infielder Travis Shaw to the Brewers for righty reliever Tyler Thornburg. The expectation was that Thornburg would emerge as a pivotal member of the team's setup crew.Mainly due to injuries, that hasn't come to fruition,

BOSTON -- It was almost two years ago that the Red Sox dealt power-hitting corner infielder Travis Shaw to the Brewers for righty reliever Tyler Thornburg. The expectation was that Thornburg would emerge as a pivotal member of the team's setup crew.
Mainly due to injuries, that hasn't come to fruition, and now the Red Sox have a decision to make on Thornburg heading into a key date in the offseason calendar.
The deadline for teams to tender contracts to all arbitration-eligible players is Friday at 8 p.m. ET. Of the 12 players the Red Sox have who fall into this category, Thornburg is the leading candidate to be non-tendered, which would make him a free agent. This is the final offseason that Thornburg is under Boston's contractual control. He is eligible for free agency following the 2019 season.
Thornburg didn't pitch at all in 2017, as he dealt with a variety of right shoulder ailments and eventually underwent a procedure to repair thoracic outlet syndrome. After missing the first three months of '18 while rehabbing from that surgery, Thornburg made his long-awaited debut for Boston on July 6.

Thornburg, 30, pitched in 25 games for the Sox, going 2-0 with a 5.63 ERA. Over 24 innings, Thornburg had 10 walks and 21 strikeouts, while allowing six homers and an opponents' batting average of .295. Those numbers demonstrate Thornburg's inconsistency, which could be chalked up to returning from a significant injury. He was not on the roster during the postseason.
The Red Sox now must mull Thornburg's chances of returning to form, as they try to decide if his 2018 numbers indicate that he will be the latest pitcher to struggle coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome.
Boston's bullpen is in a state of flux at the moment, with two key performers from the World Series championship team up for free agency in Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly. The Red Sox could decide to retain Thornburg for depth, joining Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier as power righties in manager Alex Cora's bullpen.
The other players the Red Sox must tender contracts to by Friday's deadline are: American League MVP Award winner Mookie Betts, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, infielder/outfielder Brock Holt, catcher Sandy Leon, Barnes, righty Brandon Workman, knuckleballer Steven Wright, righty Richard Hembree and catcher Blake Swihart.

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