BOSTON (CBS) — With Opening Day less than a week away, it looks like the Red Sox need another setup man.

Tyler Thornburg, acquired from Milwaukee this offseason to be Boston’s eighth-inning guy ahead of closer Craig Kimbrel, was scratched from another scheduled outing on Monday with an upper trapezius spasm and will likely start the season on the 10-day disabled list.

That leaves a void in the back of Boston’s bullpen to start the season, one the Red Sox are hoping won’t hamper their season-long plans too much.

“I think we’re fine,” Red Sox president of baseball ops. Dave Dombrowski said on Monday. “Some guys have to step up is what it comes down to. You go through these type of things in any particular year. I’ve gone through it every year in my career. We like guys in our bullpen. Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes — those guys are going to have to step up. Heath Hembree. Robbie Ross. We’re just in a situation that they’ll have to pick up the pieces for now.”

The most likely candidate to slide into Thornburg’s role to start the season is Kelly, who has a 3.38 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over eight appearances this spring. The righty has allowed three earned runs in his eight innings of work, striking out seven while issuing seven walks. Those free passes have to be the most concerning part of Kelly in the setup role, with three of them coming in his last outing on March 26. Only two of Kelly’s 14 pitches that afternoon went for strikes, but he still earned the win in Boston’s 7-2 exhibition win over the Twins.

[graphiq id=”8vTAjIWoGP3″ title=”Joe Kelly Career ERA, WHIP and K/BB” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”″ link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

If the Red Sox want to go the setup-by-committee route, Barnes (9.2 IP, 0.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP this spring) and Hembree (7.2 IP, 7.04 ERA, 1.70 WHIP) are other right-handed candidates to see time as Kimbrel’s setup man.

Lefty Carson Smith, who Dombrowski acquired last offseason to be Boston’s setup man, isn’t expected to be ready until June after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. Smith just threw his first bullpen session of the spring last week.



Leave a Reply