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.

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Right-handed starter Doug Fister, who opted out of his contract with the Angels, has been claimed off waivers by the Red Sox, CSN Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich has confirmed.

The news was first reported by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, who writes that Fister, 33, will join the Red Sox immediately.

Fister opted out of with the Angels after three Triple-A starts in Salt Lake City, where he allowed seven runs on 16 hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

With Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson on the DL, the Red Sox need immediate starting pitching help. Triple-A Pawtucket call-up Hector Velazquez made a spot start earlier this week in the fifth spot behind Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price and Drew Pomeranz. 

Fister will receive $1.75 million in the majors from the Red Sox, with $1.2 million available in additional incentives, according to Cotillo. 

Fister has pitched eight seasons in the majors, including 2016 with the Astros, going 12-13 with 4.64 ERA in 180 1/3 innings. His best season was 2014 with the Nationals (16-6, 2.41 ERA).


 

Roasted: Ortiz apparently thought Pedroia's real first name was Pee Wee

Roasted: Ortiz apparently thought Pedroia's real first name was Pee Wee

BOSTON — It took until 2015, apparently, but David Ortiz now knows Dustin Pedroia’s full name.

The couple days leading up to the jersey retirement ceremony tonight for Ortiz have been packed. Around lunch time Thursday, Ortiz had a street near Fenway Park named after him — a bridge wasn’t enough — the street formerly known as Yawkey Way Extension. (It’s between Brookline Avenue and Yawkey Station.) On Friday morning, he was at Logan Airport where JetBlue Gate C34 was designed with a new theme to honor Ortiz.

MORE ORTIZ:

Tonight's the big night, so to speak. But Thursday night will probably go down as the most entertaining.

Ortiz was roasted at House of Blues on Thursday, joined on stage by Pedroia, Rob Gronkowski and a handful of actual comedians. Bill Burr was the biggest name among the professional joke-tellers. It was a charity event to benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which helps to provide lifesaving surgeries for children.

All the comedians — Lenny Clarke, Sarah Tiana, Anthony Mackie, Josh Wolf, Adam Ray (a young man dressed up as an old Yankees fan) — ripped on everyone on stage, including Pedroia. Naturally, Pedroia was mocked for being short over and over and over.

When he took the podium, Pedroia said it was a good thing the height of the microphone was adjustable. If he had to stand on his wallet, he said, he’d be up to the roof.

Most jokes were not suitable for print or broadcast. But the story Pedroia told about being in the on-deck circle when a catcher needed a ball once was a highlight. It's from just two years ago.

“So I had already played with David for, I don’t know, nine years?” Pedroia said. “And I hit right in front of him for nine years.”

The Red Sox were playing the Indians at home. The umpire had to use the bathroom and the ball rolled near Pedroia. So the catcher said hello to Pedroia, using the second baseman’s first name.

“David walks over and goes, what the [expletive] did he call you?” Pedroia said.

“I said, ‘Dustin,’” Pedroia said. 

Ortiz was confused. “’Why’d he call you that?’” he said.

“I go, that’s my [expletive] name,” Pedroia said. “He goes, 'Oh, is that right?’

"I’m like, ‘Yeah, bro. I’ve had 1,600 games with you. They’ve actually said it 5,000 [expletive] times: now batting, No. 15, Dustin Pedroia.’”

“I thought it was Pee Wee," Ortiz went.

“This is dead serious,” Pedroia said. “Now the umpire comes back — I’m standing there, I got to hit...and I’m looking at him, ‘You thought my parents would name me [expletive] Pee Wee?’ 

“And he’s just looking at me, and we’re having a conversation. The umpire’s yelling at me, the catcher’s laughing at me because he can hear kind of what he’s saying.”

No jersey retirement speech will be that funny.