Why Heath Hembree wasn't available in win over Rangers

Rob Bradford
June 14, 2019 - 1:35 am

Why would Josh Smith serve as the Red Sox' closer Thursday night? Alex Cora tried to play coy when asked that question after his team's 7-6 win over the Rangers, but ultimately couldn't hide the real reason.

"That’s our new closer. Matchups. Bullpen by committee," Cora deadpanned. "No, Heater (Heath Hembree) felt tightness in his forearm so he wasn’t available so we had to go to Work (Brandon Workman) earlier and (Matt) Barnes earlier. Because he’s the long man he has to be the last guy and he did an outstanding job."

The order, according to Cora after the victory, was supposed to include Hembree in the seventh inning, with Workman and Barnes following up. But Hembree's forearm tightness threw things a bit out of wack, moving up the other two while leaving the ninth for Smith.

After being examined Hembree didn't sound concerned.

"Met with docs. Nobody's worried, I'm not worried," he said. "We'll see tomorrow. I know the difference in I guess a good pain and a bad pain. I guess you could say it was more of a good pain, but it was something that wasn't worth pushing any further than we did. We'll see how it is tomorrow. I might wake up tomorrow and it feels great and I'm in there tomorrow, but we're just going to kind of see how it goes day by day right now."

Hembree has emerged as a vital part of this Red Sox bullpen, having allowed one earned run since April 23. He also hadn't allowed a baserunner in any of his previous five appearances.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Smith -- who started the first game in Saturday's doubleheader -- did enough to pick up his first career save.

After hitting the first batter he faced in the ninth inning, the 31-year-old managed to finish things off by stranding runners on first and second.

"I think I'm still shaking," said Smith, who, with Hembree sidelined, was the last pitcher in the Red Sox' bullpen. "But no, it's great. It's a lot of fun. That's what makes baseball what it is."