There has been some worries about Boston’s bullpen, but it appears as though the Red Sox have received some good news. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweeted that Carson Smith will throw off the mound for the first time since having Tommy John’s surgery on March 10 — or at least right around that date.
Manager John Farrell has said he’s unsure of exactly when Smith will be able to make it back to the big leagues, but the timing suggests he’d be back sometime in June or early July. He’s already been throwing from flat ground and has felt good, so his progress suggests he’d be ready towards the earlier part of the timeline.
Smith had his surgery in May of 2016 and only pitched in three games that season, so it’s hard to say how he’ll be able to handle the pressure of playing for a big market team like the Red Sox.
In 2015, however, Smith was a decent set up man for Seattle. While pitching in 70 innings over 70 games, he had a 2.31 ERA and gave up 49 hits, 22 walks, and 19 runs on his way to a 2-5 record during that time.
Coming into the 2016 season, those numbers made it was clear that Smith was supposed to be the 8th inning set up man if he hadn’t missed most of the season due to injury. With him still scheduled to miss a significant amount of time again this year as he’s making his comeback, however, the Red Sox went out this offseason and signed Tyler Thornburg.
Thornburg had been the setup man for the Brewers and is now projected to set things up for Craig Kimbrell in Boston. Last season, the right hander had a 2.15 ERA, an 8-5 record, and 90 strikeouts while giving up 38 hits, 25 walks, and 19 runs over the course of 67 innings.
The obvious question therefore becomes: who will be the eighth inning set up man once Smith is healthy: Carson Smith or Tyler Thornburg? As of right now, I have to go with Thornburg. While their numbers are relatively similar, Thornburg’s are slightly better. Combine that with you never quite know what to expect from someone coming back from Tommy John’s and it becomes an easier decision.