FORT MYERS — Did a misunderstanding over the implementation of the Red Sox shoulder program lead to Tyler Thornburg’s injury? He’s no longer sure.

Tyler Thornburg will be shut down. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Tyler Thornburg will be shut down. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS — Did a misunderstanding over the implementation of the Red Sox shoulder program lead to Tyler Thornburg’s injury? He’s no longer sure.

Speaking to reporters before Wednesday’s game against the Twins, the right-handed reliever slightly backed off his previous suggestion that the program was too intense for him early in spring training, which led to forceful defenses from manager John Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Tuesday.

“If anything, it might have fatigued my arm a little bit before the first outing,” Thornburg said. “Or it possibly could’ve pointed out some weaknesses in my shoulder or something that wasn’t working properly. That’s all stuff we were figuring out in the last couple days. Really feel like we should work on certain areas of my arm to keep those a lot stronger and should help absolutely everything else.”

Thornburg, who hasn’t pitched in a big league game since March 1, was scheduled to pitch against the Orioles in Sarasota on Monday, but was scratched during warmups with discomfort. He was diagnosed with a right shoulder impingement and won’t throw for at least a week. He’ll open the season on the disabled list.

“I tried to push it to be ready for Opening Day and I think on both sides we kind of thought, it’s not exactly smart,” Thornburg said. “I didn’t throw in that game, so it’s not like I had a setback or anything. It was just a matter of me not feeling ready. I didn’t want to injure it further or anything like that. The hope is now to take the time off, get me to actually be feeling good instead of grinding from the first game of the year.”

On Tuesday, Farrell defended the club’s shoulder program.

“There’s a lot been written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell said. “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 the 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 now are the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

Whatever the cause, Thornburg and the Red Sox are now intent on finding a solution.

“I think I kind of saw that when I felt the shoulder issues, I took three days off from throwing maybe and then tried to push it and get enough games in, hoping it was going to work itself out,” Thornburg said. “It kind of is attributed to that a little bit. Kind of relieved in the fact that I don’t have to try to push it to get ready by a certain date and can actually take my time to know that I’m going to feel well at the end of it.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

A quiet spring training with little news is no more for the Red Sox.

First baseman Mitch Moreland is dealing with the flu and has been sent back to Boston. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

First baseman Mitch Moreland is dealing with the flu and has been sent back to Boston. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

A quiet spring training with little news is no more for the Red Sox.

Speaking in Fort Myers prior to Wednesday’s spring training game against the Twins, manager John Farrell told reporters utility infielder Josh Rutledge will start the season on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, as well noting first baseman Mitch Moreland is flying back to Boston to be quarantined with the flu.

It is also worth noting Hanley Ramirez has yet to play a game this spring at first base due to a shoulder issue.

The hope is Moreland will be ready for Opening Day next Monday, which he should, but if he isn’t the Red Sox could have some issues with who can play first base.

Steve Selsky or Marco Hernandez seem like options to be added last minute to the final roster.

“Selsky is another guy that even though he’s been optioned out, he’s a guy we’re having discussions on,” Farrell said. “Any guy in our camp that we feel is going to make us a more complete or balanced roster — Deven Marrero — they’re all in consideration.”

Some have suggested Sam Travis as an option, but Farrell noted he isn’t on the 40-man roster, so thus not an option.

“He’s not on the roster and we’re at 40 right now,” Farrell said. “You’ve got to look at all kinds of potential here. But Sam Travis doesn’t fit the positions that [Josh] Rutledge does. Yeah it’s first base, but you also have to fit the roster as well.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates, both John Farrell and Dave Dombrowski were digging in on their defense of the Red Sox’ shoulder program.

Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates, both John Farrell and Dave Dombrowski were digging in on their defense of the Red Sox’ shoulder program.

Both the manager and the president of baseball operations were questioned about the perceived cause for Tyler Thornburg having to shut things down once again due to a shoulder impingement. Each tried to make it very clear that they were not going to pin this on the approach taken by the team to strengthen the reliever’s right shoulder.

“There’s a lot been written targeting our shoulder program here. I would discount that completely,” Farrell told reporters. “He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances.They were two lengthy innings in which the 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 now are the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

True. Technically, the shoulder program probably wasn’t the problem.

It’s a process that has been almost universally praised by those pitchers who have participated. For example, Kyle Kendrick credits it for the impetus for his current success. And Joe Kelly passed on his own testimony, explaining the difference he experienced from his time with the Cardinals.

“It made a big difference,” Kelly said. “In St. Louis, if you hurt you go get treatment. Coming here I saw every single pitcher doing it. It didn’t take me long to buy into it.”

So, where did it go wrong for Thornburg?

The blame actually shouldn’t go on the program itself, but most likely the implementation of it.

Talking to WEEI.com on March 11, Thornburg explained that he was being shut down after just two spring training outings so that he could full acclimate himself to the new shoulder program without having to simultaneously pitch.

“Once we started working those muscles in the back that in depth and that much they really started to tire. I was doing a shoulder program on a certain day and all of a sudden I would pitch in the game and they would already be fatigued,” he said. “It was one of those things where we decided to shut it down and let them relax as well as strengthen it at the same time. It was really hard to do it all at the same time. It’s a lot more than I was used to, for sure. I’d say the amount of exercise-wise, probably three times the amount than I was doing.

“I was kind of doing the same 10 or so exercises and rotating them [in Milwaukee]. It was not only the pick up in the amount of exercises, but the type of exercises that were so different. I think that the reason the shoulder responded that way.”

OK. But here’s the problem: Thornburg admits he didn’t start to fully understand how the whole thing worked until just before spring training started. That, it would seem, wouldn’t be optimal for a pitcher ready to focus on ramping up his throwing rather than getting used to a significantly intense shoulder program.

“This one, yes,” said Thornburg when asked if he started the program only upon arriving at spring training. “When I went up there for the [Foxwoods] FanFest [on January 20-22] they sent me a list of the exercises we do here so I could familiarize myself with it. I kind of looked at them and thought this was all the exercises we do, not that we do all of this today, in one day. Because in Milwaukee we had shoulder excesses and we picked five and rotated them. I’m thinking these are all the ones we do, picking five or six. Not that this is the shoulder program and this is one day’s worth.

“The first day I did it I was thinking it was a lot of stuff, but didn’t think too much about it. I never had shoulder issues at all. And my shoulder felt stable after the first time. But then with the live Bps and the outings, it just started to fatigue more.”

Considering Thornburg was acquired on Dec. 6, it would seem like a big part of this problem was not using the time leading up to throwing a baseball in spring training to indoctrinate the pitcher into the aforementioned program. Instead, as we’ve discovered, all of it was probably too much, too soon.

When Thornburg first drew back due to the shoulder issue, Kelly remembered when he was traded to the Red Sox in midseason in 2014. While pitching those final two months, he dabbled with the shoulder program, but didn’t fully commit.

And when he did dive into the program, the following spring training, the then-starter ran into a similar problem as Thornburg faces, having to start the season on the disabled list with a shoulder/biceps issue after not adjusting to his new regimen.

“It was hard because it’s the first time you’re actually throwing a baseball every day and it’s the first time you’re doing the program. You combined those two things together,” Kelly remembered. “Now, I feel stronger with my mechanics, and I feel stronger with my shoulder and biceps. But I went through similar thing with my shoulder.”

It might work out in the end, but something certainly didn’t go right in the beginning.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

BRADENTON, Fla. — Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg has a right shoulder impingement and will not throw for at least a week, and manager John Farrell wants to make something clear — the club’s shoulder program is not to blame.

Tyler Thornburg

Tyler Thornburg

BRADENTON, Fla. — Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg has a right shoulder impingement and will not throw for at least a week, and manager John Farrell wants to make something clear — the club’s shoulder program is not to blame.

Speaking to reporters before the Red Sox faced the Pirates on Tuesday night, Farrell said that tests revealed inflammation in Thornburg’s right shoulder, one day after he was scratched from a scheduled appearance vs. the Orioles with spasms in his trapezius muscle.

“The underlying issue here is just the impingement that’s taken place,” Farrell said.

Thornburg, acquired from the Brewers in an offseason package that included infielder Travis Shaw, hasn’t pitched in a big league game since March 1, when he was shut down with shoulder fatigue. Thornburg wondered if the injury was the result of misunderstanding the team’s offseason shoulder program, as he explained earlier this month, saying he didn’t realize he was supposed to do every exercise prescribed every day. He thought he could pick and choose.

When he arrived in Fort Myers and became running through every exercise, “new muscles were activating, muscles I wasn’t using,” and he became fatigued.

Farrell strongly disputed the shoulder program played a role in the injury, however.

“There’s a lot been written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell said. “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 the 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 now are the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

There’s no timetable on Thornburg’s return, but Farrell believes he’ll be back.

“Anytime you lose a player, regardless for however long, you’re always concerned about their well-being,” he said. “But as far as the prognosis, I feel like he’ll be back in due time.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The plan seemed like a feasible one.

Against left-handed starting pitchers, Hanley Ramirez would move to first base with Chris Young sliding into the designated hitter spot. Considering how Young typically tortures southpaws — finishing last season with a .999 OPS — it made sense.

But, as we sit here, the blueprint is murky.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — First you saw the video of Andrew Benintendi spending the offseason lifting chains. Then came the image of his newly-crafted arms while playing on a baseball field.