Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.

Price says he's 'back' after turning in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

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Price says he's 'back' after turning in encouraging effort in first 2017 start

CHICAGO — It’s a start, literally and figuratively.

David Price showed some great velocity in his 2017 Red Sox debut Monday afternoon, hitting 97 mph — heat he didn’t have last year. At times, the pitcher the Sox badly need to return to form flashed high-level effectiveness as well.

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What everyone expected would be off in Price's first start back, his command, was indeed shaky, considering he allowed more runs (three) than hits (two) in a no-decision as the White Sox won, 5-4. But Price wasn’t expected to be in tip-top form, and he did a decent job overall.

"It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Price said, accurately. “I felt good. Just command the baseball a little bit better with my fastball and I think things will take off for me."

The lefty’s five-inning performance against the White Sox came almost exactly three months after he first felt elbow soreness during spring training. He exited with the Red Sox ahead 4-3, and all of the runs he allowed came on a home run from Melky Cabrera in the third inning. 

Price lost the chance at a win when Chicago scored twice off Matt Barnes in the seventh. He might have been a little ahead of himself after the game when he declared himself back, but, in a literal sense, Price indeed has returned.

“After the fifth, I still felt strong. I felt strong in the fifth,” Price said. “After that inning, I still felt really good. I didn’t feel like my stuff changed all that much throughout the game. I’m back.”

After the game, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager John Farrell both came over to congratulate Price on his effort.

“It felt good, just to be out there with my teammates, my brothers,” Price said. “That’s why you play the game — to have that feeling. There’s nothing else that gives you that, golf or whatever else you do to compete. You can’t replicate the feeling you have out there in a big-league game so I felt good.”

Cabrera’s shot to left put the White Sox ahead 3-1 at the time. Price walked only two batters on the day — but they happened to be the two hitters in front of Cabrera.

The walk started with the No. 9 hitter, Adam Engel. Tim Anderson, who had drawn just four walks in 181 plate appearances entering the day, got a free pass as well.

But besides the Cabrera homer on a first-pitch fastball that was middle-in, the only other hit Price allowed was a shallow bloop single to center field.

Price finished with four strikeouts, including the first batter he faced on the day, Anderson.

His command issues were nonetheless clear. Price hit two batters to begin his final frame, setting up a fine play for Deven Marrero to record a force out at second before Xander Bogaerts started an inning-ending double play with a fantastic dive, bailing Price out of the first-and-third jam with one out.

With 88 pitches and 58 strikes, Price was more efficient than he was in two rehab outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, and he didn’t get rocked. 

But he also wasn’t as efficient as the Red Sox will need him to be.

Price was pitching in a calm, pleasant environment (clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, low humidity) that might actually have been more comfortable than the colder clime Price faced in Pawtucket -- where both the fans and temperatures were chilly.

The Red Sox were aggressive bringing Price back so quickly, and set themselves up for a second guess if something went wrong. But Price preserved the second of two leads his offense gave him and didn’t let the game get out of hand.

“Health-wise, my two rehab outings, the amount of pitches I threw in a short amount of time,  you can’t do that and then bounce back in the way that I did after both rehab games and not be healthy,” Price said. “There’s no doubt in my mind where I stand right now health-wise. It was good to go out there and feel as good as I did.”

After the Cabrera homer put the White Sox up two, the Red Sox answered immediately in the top of the fourth to tie at 3-3.

The argument that Price did better than anyone else would have in his place is a fair one, considering John Farrell and co. slated Price to pitch Monday before they watched Brian Johnson’s complete-game shutout.

The bigger question was always about what was best for Price’s future, and Monday looks like something he can build on. He may have benefited from the adrenaline of being back in the majors.

“I don't think I throw a single pitch at 99 percent. Everything's 100 percent,” Price said. “I haven't gotten to that point in my career yet where I taper off of certain pitches. My health is not in my mind. I feel healthy. Just go out there and get better.”

Price was even diving for foul balls.

“I think if my elbow was completely blown I'd still dive for that ball,” Price said of a play he couldn't come up with as he lunged near the third-base line. “That's a play I've been dreaming about for a long time now. Me and [Chris] Sale were talking about it probably two weeks ago. It's a play you want to be able to have an opportunity to make. I think it hit the tip of my glove and rolled all the way down my body.”

UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

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UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

CHICAGO — Sure, Dustin Pedroia could have gotten an MRI in Chicago. But the Red Sox don’t want any doubt.

With an injured left wrist, Pedroia is heading back to Boston for an 8:30 a.m. appointment Tuesday with Red Sox medical staff, setting up a hold-your-breath morning as the Sox wait to learn if Pedroia’s going to land on the disabled list. No roster move was made immediately after the Red Sox lost to the White Sox, 5-4.

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For now, the Red Sox say Pedroia has a wrist sprain. X-Rays taken in Chicago were negative but the wrist was swollen.

Pedroia was hurt in the top of the first inning Monday on a weird play, when he was trying to leg out an infield hit and wound up tumbling over White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who slid into the bag feet first. 

Pedroia was hurt bracing himself as he went over Abreu.

“He feels he knows those guys, they know him well,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said of the decision to send Pedroia back to Boston. “We felt it would be more comfortable for him to do that. He wanted to do that, too. He knows those guys well. We could have gotten an MRI here and had people read it, but he just knows the people there so well. We figured he wanted to do that, so we said, 'Sure, we'll fly you there and get the MRI done there.”

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

“He's been dealing with the situation from the winter time, but he's played well,” Dombrowski said. “He's played almost every day. He's had to deal with a lot of things, which is very unfortunate, but he battles through it.”

On the play he was hurt, Pedroia hit a chopper to the right side, where Abreu fielded it and hesitated before moving to the bag — likely determining whether he was going to try to flip it to the pitcher. He kept it himself and went in feet first, putting him essentially on the bag as Pedroia arrived. Moving at full speed, Pedroia tumbled over Abreu, leading Pedroia to brace himself with his wrist.

“A real freakish play,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ll hopefully have some mid-morning information.”

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.

Pedroia’s power has been down all year, with just a pair of home runs, but he still entered Monday hitting .294.