Boston Red Sox

Drellich: Price's path to Boston redemption unfolding as he rehabs

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Drellich: Price's path to Boston redemption unfolding as he rehabs

BOSTON — You can start to see it. Late innings, American League Championship Series. David Price on the mound.

We're trending that way.

Once it became clear Price was in position to return closer to the start of October than September, a different sort of path to redemption materialized.

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Maybe Price will barely pitch in the regular season, if at all. Maybe he’ll be strictly a reliever in the postseason. Or maybe he’ll be able to build up his pitch count as the playoffs move along, and he can join the rotation after initially returning in relief.

Any amount of Price in the playoffs, be it for two innings or eight, is valuable. As long as Price is pitching like he’s capable of, or close to it. The debate over what role he’ll take is a little pointless — whatever you can get out of him, you take it. As long as the health of his arm has not led to diminished stuff and performance. (Rust is probably inevitable, but a rusty Price is better than a lot of others, and it's not like you have November to worry about.)

Turn to tandem starters if you want to, piggybacking Price off say, four innings of Doug Fister in Game 4 of the Division Series.

However it unfolds, the groundwork is here. It’s been there, clearly marked. 

The narrative about Price could swing rather dramatically this October. The lefty could take on a knight-in-shining-armor persona, swooping in just in time to give the Red Sox pitching staff the extra boost it will need behind Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and an offense that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.

Price on Saturday faced hitters for the first time as he comes back from his significant elbow injury this year. He threw a two-inning sim game at Fenway Park and his next step is another sim game, 

“Got through today fine: 32 pitches,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “As we intended to take care of the work today, which he was able to accomplish with no ill effects. A good step obviously in his progression to game activity. At a minimum, he’ll go through another sim game situation in the coming days, four or five days from now. That schedule has yet to be worked out given the day game on Thursday and time constraints with that. But today, a good day.”

Not all fans and media would immediately welcome back Price with open arms. Most probably would. But everyone should have an open mind and remember how capable a pitcher he is. A bad postseason record to date does not mean he cannot and will not, at some point, perform well in the playoffs. His track record gives you reason to doubt, but not reason to write him off completely.

If Price returns only as a reliever, people will still grumble and say, “Let’s see him do it as a starter.” That won’t be fair. He can only do what he’s asked, and what he’s physically capable of doing. If he's a reliever this postseason, accept it. 

What will matter is that Price, if given the chance, seizes it. And it won’t be easy having missed so much time.

“As he’s gone through this type of return before, it’s been with this type of intensity every fifth day,” Farrell said. “I think after the next sim game setting like this, we’ll have a chance to sit down and talk with him, what’s the best path as far as what the role could be. We’re not at that point yet.”

If Price gets hurt again and suffers a setback and winds up on an operating table, a debate about whether he should have sooner gone for surgery will ensue. If his UCL can hold up, he can help the Red Sox this October just as much as he can help his own standing in Boston.

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.

Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN. 

Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."

The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.

 


 

Drellich: After season, Red Sox should extend John Farrell long-term or fire him

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Drellich: After season, Red Sox should extend John Farrell long-term or fire him

 John Farrell’s contract runs through next season. Once this season is over, the Sox need to extend him for multiple years or fire him.

No in-between, Dave Dombrowski. Not if you want to avoid unnecessary drama for your club.

The last manager the Red Sox president of baseball operations personally installed, Brad Ausmus, is a free agent. Ausmus is finishing the last year of his deal in Detroit and the Tigers won’t bring him back.

This isn’t going where you think. 

Oh, speculation the Sox could pursue Ausmus will crop up, whether founded or not. That’s what happens when there’s a connection between a lead executive and an available skipper.

But Ausmus stands as a strong example of what happens when a manager is left in the wind. 

In 2015, when there were false reports Ausmus was fired with one year remaining on his deal, he was on the hot seat and the chatter never disappeared.

"Don't care at all,” Ausmus said two years ago, via ESPN. “Said it before, I'll say it right now. Players will respect you regardless of your contract status. They're gonna respect you because of who you are, not how much money you're making or how long your tenure is.”

In 2016, Ausmus played the year out with no certainty about his future. His 2017 option wasn't picked up until after the season.

“I understand I’m in the crosshairs,” Ausmus said last May, via the Detroit News. “That’s not gonna change the way I do anything . . . I’m not gonna make decisions based on whether I’m gonna get fired or not.”

And then, lo and behold, Ausmus was back in the same position again.

“I don’t worry about it,” Ausmus said in July, via the Free Press. “I don’t really ever worry about it. I guess I worry about it less now. My contract’s over at the end of the year anyway. I guess you think about it even less.”

The Sox don’t need this. 

The Tigers were losing and are now headed for a rebuild. Farrell’s closing in on his second straight American League East title. 

Let’s assume he gets it. That's an impressive feat. Enough to be rewarded. At the same time, if all the side dramas — the Baltimore incident, David Price’s lack of self-control, even the embarrassment of the sign-stealing saga — are enough that Dombrowski still feels unsure, he should act.

Dombrowski, great talent evaluator that he is, should have a fully formed opinion on Farrell by now. 

Remember how silly everything looked last October when it came to Farrell's status?

Farrell spoke to the media at a Fenway Park press conference after the Sox were eliminated. Farrell was under contract through 2017 at that point, but had no answers about his job security, about whether he was coming back. 

Farrell’s press conference wrapped, and in walked Dombrowski for his segment with the media. Dombrowski announced that he had just told Farrell he was coming back for 2017 — in a conversation with Farrell in between press conferences.

Uh, OK? The scene was bizarre, to say the least. 

Then, it wasn’t until December that the Sox announced they picked up Farrell’s option through 2018.

The players and Farrell deserve a fuller answer this offseason. If Farrell is the guy, treat him like it and let the players know he’s the guy. Let a clubhouse that didn’t seem to have one band, one sound the whole year know who’s actually in charge. 

And if Farrell is not the guy, move on.

What the Red Sox should not do is stand pat and leave Farrell’s contract, which runs through next season, as is. They shouldn’t leave him and the team (and the media that will ask questions of both) in a constant state of wonder, with a lurking sense that Farrell could be out the door. They shouldn't leave themselves open to speculation Farrell's moves could be influenced by his job security.

The Sox could add just one more year to Farrell's deal again, but that'd be far from a vote of confidence. Is it Dombrowski’s intention to have Farrell sit on the hot seat annually?

Maybe in Dombrowski’s mind, there’s a particular playoff round Farrell and the Sox need to advance to for Farrell to stick around. Maybe two straight divisiont titles is all he needed to see. We don't know. Whatever the criteria proves to be, it will be scrutinized. But the firmness of the decision is significant as well.

There’s so much the Sox have to deal with every year. Legitimacy of the manager is one area where the Sox have some control over the volume. Uncertainty is a dangerous theme song.