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.

Andrew Benintendi (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

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.

The 22-year-old outfielder had made it a point to gain muscle, and he did, heading into camp at 186 pounds. News flash: With just a few days before the regular season, Benintendi has lost a pound.

It’s good news for the Red Sox and their left fielder.

Benintendi has managed to keep on the weight throughout the rigors of spring training, something he struggled with a year ago while residing close to 170 pounds. The reshaped body has worked just as planned, with the lefty hitter totaling three home runs, six doubles and an OPS of .980 in 61 Grapefruit League at-bats.

“Overall, I feel better. I feel stronger,” Benintendi said. “I think this time last year my body was kind of worn out, being in the heat all the time and playing every day. Right now I feel good. I feel fresh and I’m ready to roll.

“I put in a lot of work this offseason and it’s translated well so far. Hopefully it holds up for the last few days.”

What will be interesting to see when the regular season rolls around is not only if Benintendi’s production will carry over, but how he grades out at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field with the new StatCast system.

“I feel like my exit speed is there, hitting it harder,” said Benintendi, whose hardest hit ball was 104.1 mph, coming on a double off Dylan Bundy on Sept. 19. “I just feel like I can drive the ball more. The ball is going farther and I’m hitting it harder. I also feel more powerful running. I don’t know if I’m faster, but maybe quicker.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Andrew Benintendi (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

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.

The 22-year-old outfielder had made it a point to gain muscle, and he did, heading into camp at 186 pounds. News flash: With just a few days before the regular season, Benintendi has lost a pound.

It’s good news for the Red Sox and their left fielder.

Benintendi has managed to keep on the weight throughout the rigors of spring training, something he struggled with a year ago while residing close to 170 pounds. The reshaped body has worked just as planned, with the lefty hitter totaling three home runs, six doubles and an OPS of .980 in 61 Grapefruit League at-bats.

“Overall, I feel better. I feel stronger,” Benintendi said. “I think this time last year my body was kind of worn out, being in the heat all the time and playing every day. Right now I feel good. I feel fresh and I’m ready to roll.

“I put in a lot of work this offseason and it’s translated well so far. Hopefully it holds up for the last few days.”

What will be interesting to see when the regular season rolls around is not only if Benintendi’s production will carry over, but how he grades out at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field with the new StatCast system.

“I feel like my exit speed is there, hitting it harder,” said Benintendi, whose hardest hit ball was 104.1 mph, coming on a double off Dylan Bundy on Sept. 19. “I just feel like I can drive the ball more. The ball is going farther and I’m hitting it harder. I also feel more powerful running. I don’t know if I’m faster, but maybe quicker.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Chris Young (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Young (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

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.

Ramirez still hasn’t played in the field due to an ailing right shoulder, and it is unclear if he will be able to man first when the regular season rolls around next week. That would leave the righty hitter in the DH spot on a full-time basis, putting Mitch Moreland at first on a more regular basis, or allowing Josh Rutledge to get some action at the position.

Where it has left Young is with a whole lot of uncertainty.

“You think about it, for sure,” said Young regarding the possibility that Ramirez remains at DH due to his shoulder. “But you have no control over it. I can control what I can control. That’s all I try and focus on. I try and stay ready and be prepared for whatever situation comes my way, which is the same thing I did last year. Last year I didn’t know how things would fall into place, and they fell into place alright. Unfortunately I got hurt and that kind of changed the plan, but before that I was able to earn my way into the lineup. My goal is to earn my way and to show I can help the team in whatever aspects they need and stay ready.”

If the DH spot doesn’t open up, that would leave Young having to serve as a sub for an outfield that wouldn’t appear to need much turnover. The days Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts might need a down day would seem to be few and far between.

It would seemingly put Young in a similar spot as he found himself last April, when he got just five starts in the entire month.

There is always the strong likelihood that something changes as the schedule unfolds, as Young remembered happening last season. There ended up being 10 starts in May, and then 17 in May before he was sidelined for two months with a hamstring injury.

“That’s all you can do, is to continue to prepare every day like you’re playing that day and continue to show up ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes,” he said. “If you let off, or sulk, or let too much from the outside influence your head, when that opportunity does come your way you’re not prepared for it. I choose not to go that route. I choose to go the route of being prepared all the time.”

And then there is the adjustment he will have to make if Ramirez actually does start playing the field. For his entire career, Young has only hit out of the designated hitter spot in for 35 plate appearances, going 4-for-29. Last year he managed just two at-bats as a DH.

“It will be different, but players have to make adjustments every year,” Young said. “I’ve always had to make adjustments. Even when I was playing every day I had to continue to make adjustments in my game. That work never stops. I’ll stay ready for whatever.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Chris Young (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Young (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

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.

Ramirez still hasn’t played in the field due to an ailing right shoulder, and it is unclear if he will be able to man first when the regular season rolls around next week. That would leave the righty hitter in the DH spot on a full-time basis, putting Mitch Moreland at first on a more regular basis, or allowing Josh Rutledge to get some action at the position.

Where it has left Young is with a whole lot of uncertainty.

“You think about it, for sure,” said Young regarding the possibility that Ramirez remains at DH due to his shoulder. “But you have no control over it. I can control what I can control. That’s all I try and focus on. I try and stay ready and be prepared for whatever situation comes my way, which is the same thing I did last year. Last year I didn’t know how things would fall into place, and they fell into place alright. Unfortunately I got hurt and that kind of changed the plan, but before that I was able to earn my way into the lineup. My goal is to earn my way and to show I can help the team in whatever aspects they need and stay ready.”

If the DH spot doesn’t open up, that would leave Young having to serve as a sub for an outfield that wouldn’t appear to need much turnover. The days Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts might need a down day would seem to be few and far between.

It would seemingly put Young in a similar spot as he found himself last April, when he got just five starts in the entire month.

There is always the strong likelihood that something changes as the schedule unfolds, as Young remembered happening last season. There ended up being 10 starts in May, and then 17 in May before he was sidelined for two months with a hamstring injury.

“That’s all you can do, is to continue to prepare every day like you’re playing that day and continue to show up ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes,” he said. “If you let off, or sulk, or let too much from the outside influence your head, when that opportunity does come your way you’re not prepared for it. I choose not to go that route. I choose to go the route of being prepared all the time.”

And then there is the adjustment he will have to make if Ramirez actually does start playing the field. For his entire career, Young has only hit out of the designated hitter spot in for 35 plate appearances, going 4-for-29. Last year he managed just two at-bats as a DH.

“It will be different, but players have to make adjustments every year,” Young said. “I’ve always had to make adjustments. Even when I was playing every day I had to continue to make adjustments in my game. That work never stops. I’ll stay ready for whatever.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford