It was how Dave Dombrowski drew it up.
The Red Sox’ season-opening win over the Cleveland Indians had it all: dominant pitching, timely hitting, and solid defense. So it’s fair to say that when Boston’s president of baseball operations, Dombrowski, envisioned his 2016 Opening Day lineup, the result that played out in his head looked pretty similar to Tuesday’s 6-2 win at Progressive Field.
But there was one thing that jumped off the screen. And that was none other than David Price. His Red Sox debut was a breath of fresh air for an organization that desperately needed a bona fide ace to lead the rotation.
Price picked up the win, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings, while walking two and striking out 10. On top of it all, Price got the job done in 30-degree weather. And in my opinion, he didn’t even have his best stuff.
Price’s fastball was around 91 mph all day long. Sure, it was 91 with some serious pop, but as the year goes on, you’ll see that velocity tickle the mid-90s. And there were certainly moments on Tuesday in which Price struggled with the location of his cutter. That said, he was able to get out of an early jam in the second with back-to-back strikeouts while there were runners on the corners.
And then in the fourth inning, after allowing two runs that tied the game at 2-2, Price was able to minimize the damage with an inning-ending strikeout, keeping the game tied.
He went on to end each of his final two innings — the fifth and the sixth — with a strikeout, and left the game with a 4-2 lead.
Price did his job, and then some. He set the table for his new team’s first win of the season, but he also confirmed that Dombrowski made the right decision by signing him to a seven-year, $217 million deal over the winter.
Not that I needed the confirmation. I was on-board with a Price signing while he was playing for Toronto last year. Bringing in a dominant ace in free agency — even if it would cost an arm and a leg — made too much sense. And give credit where credit is due to Dombrowski, general manager Mike Hazen, and Red Sox ownership for pinpointing the team’s biggest need and attacking one of the best available players at that position.
The same goes for new closer Craig Kimbrel. That was also a position of need for the Red Sox. And Dombrowski jumped all over it, landing him in a blockbuster trade this past offseason. Kimbrel did not disappoint in his debut. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning and struck out two, while showcasing his filthy 96-97 mph fastball.
It was a non-save situation, thanks to David Ortiz’ ninth-inning two-run home run. But it didn’t matter. Kimbrel’s performance was another confirmation — if you needed any — that Dombrowski made the right decision by trading four prospects to San Diego for arguably the best closer in all of baseball.
Combine those Opening Day performances with Mookie Betts’ two-run home run and spectacular leaping grab in right field, and you got a nearly perfect way to begin the 2016 season.
But ultimately, Price’s statement was the loudest of them all.
Plenty of questions remain with the rest of the Red Sox rotation, for sure. But Price’s debut should have given everyone in Boston some sense of relief. Because the Red Sox have somebody they can count on to control the game every fifth night. They have an ace again.
And that’s exactly how Dombrowski drew it up.