Drellich: A lesson for Dombrowski to learn with Thornburg, Smith trades

Drellich: A lesson for Dombrowski to learn with Thornburg, Smith trades

PHILADELPHIA — The lesson for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is simple: stop paying high prices for set-up men. Stop pursuing them at peak value or near to it.

You probably can’t prevent Tyler Thornburg from happening. You definitely can prevent Travis Shaw from happening.

Thornburg won’t throw a pitch for the 2017 Sox, heading for season-ending surgery Friday. Carson Smith has thrown 48 pitches for the team, all last year, when he went for Tommy John surgery. He might be back soon, he might not.

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Put the medical process aside. Season-ending surgeries alone don’t make Dombrowski’s trades bad. What made them poor is the principle that drove them in the first place. Process, rather than outcome.

Bullpens are volatile. Guys like Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly and Robby Scott emerge. 

Ironically, a guy who built notoriously bad ‘pens in his years with the Tigers finally has a good one now, and hasn’t needed Thornburg or Smith. That’s a credit to Dombrowski — and also a reminder why the trades were not the best use of resources.

He went after overpriced products.

Smith’s expected return will be vital for a taxed group of relievers, yes. And Dombrowski’s deal for Craig Kimbrel is a huge part of the ‘pen’s success. But Kimbrel is a different category of pitcher. 

Medical problems for Sox pitchers have repeatedly been noticeable this year. But thoracic outlet syndrome, Thornburg’s diagnosis, is difficult to detect and was reached in a process of elimination.

“It’s just one of those things that happen. When you make trades at times, it’s buyer beware,” Dombrowski said Thursday. “There’s no way you would know this. You just hope that you get a healthy player back for next year and it ends up taking place. I’ve had guys throughout my career that I’ve traded that unfortunately have gotten hurt in other places. And I don’t believe in anyway, when I say that, that Milwaukee knew that this was taking place. They gave us all the information. There’s no question that they were very upfront in that regard. It’s just a very unfortunate situation and you just want to get the player healthy and move on from there.”

Dombrowski said Thornburg received chiropractic treatment last year, but that “there was never any indication that there was any major problems in that regard.”

Maybe not with Thornburg’s health. But with the trade? 

There was room for Shaw, one of the principal pieces dealt to the Brewers, on this team. A change of scenery may be part of the reason Shaw is thriving. But the Sox undervalued him while overvaluing what they sought. He was just one part of a trade that could really sting in years to come.

Entering Thursday, Shaw had a .299 average, .353 on-base percentage and .534 slugging percentage to go with 11 home runs. Those numbers make Brewers GM David Stearns look like a new-age genius and Dombrowski like a man left behind.

“First is you have a relatively young player who’s demonstrated above-average power production throughout his career, not only in home-run production, but extra-base production,” Stearns said on the CSNNE Baseball Show podcast in May. “We saw some positional versatility and the ability to play both third base and first base. We were really impressed with his ability to pick up third base a little bit later in his career. That’s not easy for someone to do, and demonstrated a degree of athleticism that maybe isn’t evident on a lot of corner players throughout the league, and he was a guy we felt like if given an opportunity, if given regular playing time, he might have a chance to flourish.”

On Thursday afternoon, Dombrowski was asked if Shaw’s success caused him to go back and look at his evaluation.

“I really wouldn’t talk about another organization’s player at this point,” Dombrowski responded. “It’s really not a proper thing for me to do.”

But that’s not the question that was asked. The question was about the evaluation that was made, about his own team’s process.

The proper thing to do is consider that he had it wrong.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."

Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

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Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

BOSTON - JC Ramirez rebounded from his shortest career start with six solid innings, Cameron Maybin doubled home a run and scored another and the Los Angeles Angels held off the Boston Red Sox 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Angels look for their fifth series win in their last six on Sunday.

Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the Red Sox, who lost for only the third time in their last 13 home games.

Ramirez (7-5) allowed one run and four hits with five strikeouts after lasting just three innings and giving up five runs in his previous start.

Blake Parker struck out pinch-hitter Chris Young with the bases loaded for the final out for his first save of the season after Boston scored twice in the ninth.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by third-base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller after Fernando Abad was called for a balk, scoring a run that made it 5-1 in the seventh.