A year and nine months after last pitching in majors, Tyler Thornburg on verge of returning

Tyler Thornburg hasn’t pitched in a major league game since Oct. 2, 2016.
Tyler Thornburg hasn’t pitched in a major league game since Oct. 2, 2016.John Minchillo/AP/Associated Press

NEW YORK — As of Monday it will be one year and nine months since Tyler Thornburg pitched in the major leagues. But his time in baseball purgatory may soon be ending.

“Realistically, probably this week he’ll be with us,” manager Alex Cora said on Sunday.

Thornburg has been essentially an adjunct member of the Sox for two seasons. He has a uniform and a locker but hasn’t been physically ready to play as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

“I miss it. It’s tough when you spend so much time working towards something that’s meant so much in your life and keep getting it taken away from you,” Thornburg said. “It’s incredibly tough as well being around these guys every day and knowing there’s not much I can do to help the team.


“Hopefully I can come in and make a huge contribution and make it all worth it.”

Thornburg pitched a perfect inning for Triple A Pawtucket on Saturday night at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“He was good,” Cora said. “We were just talking about it, whether it might be one more [minor league] inning or he’s ready for this week.”

Thornburg could stay on what is his second 30-day minor league rehabilitation assignment through Wednesday. At that point, the team would have to activate him off the disabled list.

Thornburg has pitched in 18 minor league games since April 30. He has a 4.98 earned run average and 1.41 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 16⅓ innings.

What one more game will prove isn’t certain. At some point the Sox have to see how Thornburg pitches in the majors and determine whether he can help them.

“I feel good right now. I feel good; I feel ready,” Thornburg said. “I feel like it’s going to be one of those situations where it kind of continues to build throughout the year, too, the more outings I get.”


Thornburg had a 2.15 ERA and averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 67 appearances for Milwaukee in 2016. When the Sox traded Travis Shaw and three prospects for Thornburg on Dec. 6, 2016, it looked like a deal that would markedly improve the bullpen.

But Thornburg needed thoracic outlet surgery the following spring and Shaw has since hit 45 home runs with 148 RBIs in 221 games for the Brewers.

Nationals up next

The Red Sox start a three-game series at Washington on Monday night. The Sox have not played at Nationals Park since taking two of three games from June 23-25, 2009.

Rick Porcello faces Max Scherzer in the first game. They were Detroit teammates from 2010-14.

Scherzer is 10-4 with a 2.04 ERA and leads the majors with 165 strikeouts. He has a 1.88 ERA in his last six starts but the Nationals are 3-3 in those games.

Scherzer has not faced the Red Sox since June 7, 2014.

Porcello’s only career start against Washington was on April 13, 2015 at Fenway Park. He allowed three earned runs over eight innings in a game the Sox won, 9-4.

With no designated hitter available, Cora plans to start J.D. Martinez in the outfield twice and give Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. each a day off.

The Sox are 4-1 in interleague games this season and are 21-5 against NL teams since the start of the 2017 season, with victories in 15 of their last 17 games.



Sandy Leon has 11 home runs and 55 RBIs over 120 games the last two seasons. Seven of the home runs and 24 of the RBIs have come in the 42 games he has caught Chris Sale.

Leon was 2 for 4 with a double, home run, and two RBIs for Sale in Saturday’s 11-0 wipeout of the Yankees.

“I had a feeling something like that was going on,” Sale said. “He’s had quite a few big hits in the games I started. But seven home runs? I may need to buy him something nice in appreciation.”

Another prospect injured

Being drafted by the Red Sox is dangerous to your health.

First-round pick Triston Casas tore a ligament in his right thumb in his second game last week and had season-ending surgery on Thursday.

Now second-round pick Nick Decker will be in a cast for 3-4 weeks because of a small fracture in his left wrist that came while swinging a bat last week. The outfielder has yet to play in a game.

Dr. Matt Liebman treated both players at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Avoid the crowds

The Red Sox did not take batting practice on the field on Saturday or Sunday. Part of the reason was the humidity but also the crush of guests, media, and others on the field before the game.

“It’s because of the heat,” Cora said. “But at the same time I do feel that on weekends like this, the more we stay away from the field the better it is. Not only mentally but physically.


“We know how much it takes when we come [to New York] regardless if we downplay it. Those games are very intense. Learned a lot during this weekend. It’s fun; it’s fun. I loved it as a player; I really enjoy it as a manager.”

Good company

According to Stats, Inc., Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are the fifth American League duo since 1920 to each have at least 50 runs, 20 home runs, a .300 batting average and 1.000 OPS through the end of June. The others are Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez (2000 Mariners), Jimmie Foxx and Bob Johnson (1934 Athletics), and Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth (1927 and ’30 Yankees) . . . The Yankees optioned right-handed reliever Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A on Saturday and before the game on Sunday recalled right-handed reliever David Hale.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.