Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg will miss the rest of the 2017 season after undergoing surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder. The news comes after an injury-plagued start to the season, with Thornburg sidelined due to nagging shoulder problems.
“Thornburg’s injury may be due to his shoulder nerves and vessels being pushed on by msucles, bands of tissue, or the ribs,” Dr. Selene Parekh, an orthopedic surgeon at Duke University, said. “The nerves and vessels will be decompressed with the surgery, and Thornburg can be expected to return in roughly six to nine months.”
After a breakout 2016 campaign, the news is heartbreaking for Thornburg and Boston fans. Thornburg came over from the Milwaukee Brewers as the centerpiece of a trade for Travis Shaw—who is batting .299 11 homeruns and 44 runs batted in for the NL Central-leading Brewers—and two other prospects, a trade that is not sitting very well with the Red Sox right now.
Thornburg was brought in to be the setup man for star closer Craig Kimbrel after finishing last season with an 8-5 record with a 2.15 earned run average and 13 saves in 67 innings pitched. Luckily for Boston, though, is that due to the emergence of Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes, the Red Sox bullpen has been very solid in front of Kimbrel this season.
Fantasy-wise, though Thornburg’s injury may not have much of an impact this year, it may affect his stock for the future. The most-publicized case recently of players attempting to mount comebacks after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet sydrome is that of New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey, who has dealt with a slew of problems—both on and off the field—since returning. Harvey’s velocity has fallen off in 2017, and the same should be expected of Thornburg as it is a common issue that has plagued other pitchers recovering from the surgery.
Yes, Thornburg does not rely on a blazing fastball to overwhelm opposing hitters. But still, it is an important pitch in his repetoire, and will definitely suffer if the 28-year old loses a few miles per hour on his four-seamer. If anything, the injury may prevent him from ever becoming a full-time closer again, and for this season, it is an unfortunate outcome for a player viewed as a bullpen cornerstone just a few months ago.