Drellich: Red Sox season hinges on new father Price

Drellich: Red Sox season hinges on new father Price


OAKLAND — The calamities of Hector Velazquez and Kyle Kendrick return us to the big picture, which has been unchanged since spring training.

The 2017 Red Sox season hinges on David Price.

Depth and roster building are all concerns for the Red Sox. They need better back-end starters, which is the responsibility of the front office. But if you start ignoring the margins and the smaller-value choices, the concept is simple. It always has been. 

The Sox lost David Ortiz, they added Chris Sale, and then they lost Price. Those are huge pieces, players worth four or five wins above replacement in a full season.

Forget the Velazquezs of the world. Forget the trade market, where the Sox will have to be active but are restricted by three things: their own prospect pool, the fact they'll probably have multiple needs and the luxury-tax threshold.

There's no one like Price coming from the outside.

“David Price is elite,” Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said Thursday night. “And you know he’s been that way for a long time. He had a very good year for us last year (17-9, 3.99 ERA). And if we get that guy back, we’re getting a front-line, elite-caliber starter. Those guys are hard to find. 

“You insert him in a rotation that has Chris Sale, has Rick Porcello, Eddie Rodriguez coming [along], which he is. It’s a huge difference-maker. And it’s a huge difference-maker for the bullpen as well.”

On Friday, the lefty is slated to make his first minor league rehab start as he comes back from an elbow injury. It’s an outing loaded with symbolism shortly after the birth of his first child. Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, one of Price’s great friends, tweeted on Friday morning that Price and wife Tiffany welcomed a baby boy, Xavier. Price confirmed the news in a tweet later on Friday. (It's unclear what day Xavier was born.)

With still many hours to go before Friday's game with Triple-A Pawtucket in Buffalo, there was no indication Price’s status for the start had changed. (Of course, it could before first pitch.)

The motivation for Price may skyrocket even further now, the story and reward of his potential return multitudes sweeter.

A year prior to Velazquez’s major league debut Thursday night, Price made his second start of the 2016 season for the Sox. Or more accurately, his second start in the stretch that was representative of how good he can be and, in fact, was last year.

He allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings vs. the defending world-champion Royals last May 18. From May 12 last year through the end of the regular season, Price had a 3.39 ERA in 188 2/3 innings pitched. 

X-factors are generally silly ideas because they assume a lot else goes right. With Price, let’s make that assumption. Let’s presume that Sale stays healthy and so does Dustin Pedroia.

The Sox will still be decent, still have a chance if Price doesn’t make it back healthy, or if he's ineffective. As bad as third base has been, there have been gains elsewhere. Steven Wright is gone for the season, but look at Joe Kelly's progress in the bullpen. Maybe Rafael Devers has two great months to finish the year.

But it’s all kind of minor by comparison when talking about what the Sox can do differently from here. The difference between the middling performance the Sox are showing now and something greater is Price.

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."