Newly-acquired relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg was looking to be the Red Sox set-up man heading into the season. Instead, after a rocky spring, Thornburg will start the season on the disabled list. While disappointing as a Red Sox fan to have another promising arm go on the DL before making a regular season appearance (see: Smith, Carson), the bigger story here is how the Red Sox management has handled (or mis-handled) this story.
As background, Thornburg came into camp and struggled with the Red Sox shoulder program for pitchers, leading him to be shut down for most of the spring. After Thornburg had clearly admitted he wasn’t ready for the intense program, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski went on the attack at the media for the “pushing” the narrative surrounding the shoulder program. Despite Thornburg being the one that brought up the program, it is a bit troubling that after Thornburg admitted on March 11 that his “arm wasn’t used to the type of exercises and the amount of them,” Dombrowski would blame the media for pushing that agenda.
Dombrowski was not alone in his defense of the throwing program. Manager John Farrell, who previously had also mentioned on May 10 that Thornburg was going through an adjustment period with the shoulder program, completely changed his tune yesterday. Farrell also flipped the script on the reporters saying:
“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here. I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”
Seems almost presidential the way that Farrell pivoted in his response. Today, Thornburg again reiterated that the shoulder program was a factor in his injury. Nonetheless, I am not sure what the Red Sox are trying to hide here. They need to get their story straight and I think most people would tend to believe the player in this instance, so why try to deny something coming straight from a player’s mouth. By doing this, they have brought more attention than necessary to a story that otherwise would have been a throwaway in a notebook or, at most, a sidebar story. This is not a great look for a team heading into what looks to be a promising season, especially a team like the Red Sox that already have their concerns about management’s handling of players.