They’re ready to go.
That’s what Boston Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said about Chris Sale and David Price on Tuesday, as the team prepares for Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS on Friday and Saturday night at Fenway Park.
Kennedy sat down with me for an exclusive 1-on-1 interview, and expressed his excitement for the Red Sox’ top two starting pitchers. Sale will start Game 1 on Friday night. Price will start Game 2 on Saturday night.
Both starts come with a little concern, however.
Neither Sale nor Price have won a postseason game that they’ve started. Sale is 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA in his postseason career, and Price is 2-8 with a 5.03 ERA in the playoffs. Price’s sample size is much larger, having appeared in 17 total postseason games over the years, as opposed to Sale’s two total appearances, which both came last year in Boston’s ALDS loss to the Houston Astros.
Sale is coming off an outing where his velocity was down in the low-90’s and his off-speed stuff was all over the place. This, after shoulder inflammation resulted in multiple DL stints late in the season for the Red Sox ace, is certainly a reason to proceed with some caution.
But the Sox president said he’s “cautiously optimistic” based on talking to team doctors, Sale, and manager Alex Cora.
“Obviously he’s had the inflammation a little bit in the shoulder, and he’s been managing it and working back up,” said Kennedy on my podcast Tuesday. “Where I’m optimistic is, Alex Cora has done a brilliant job of sitting guys when they needed to sit.
“We’ve been building Chris Sale back up. He’s had a little bit of mechanical issues as he’s said, trying to sort of find that strength when you come back. My prediction is, you’re going to see the Chris Sale that we all know and love.
“He will be ready,” added Kennedy. “The intensity level will be at an all-time high. I’m fired up to see him Friday night, because this is why Chris Sale is here, this is what he lives for.”
Kennedy’s confidence in Sale goes back to last year, after Sale picked up the loss out of the bullpen in Game 4 of the ALDS, which ended the Red Sox’ season, Kennedy saw something he had never seen from one of his players.
“About an hour-and-a-half after [Game 4], we were down just thanking everybody for a great season,” said Kennedy. “John Henry, Tom Werner, some of my colleagues, we were just thanking everybody for everything they did. Chris Sale was sitting in the clubhouse, on the ground, off to the side, full uniform. He had not changed out of his uniform. He was pissed off. He was looking straight ahead. And I had never seen a look that intense in my 17 years here. This is a guy who lives for Friday night and that moment. He wants it so bad.”
Price might need it more than Sale does, though, on Saturday night in Game 2. His postseason demons — out of the starting rotation at least — are still lurking.
But Kennedy’s confidence in Price goes all the way back to the 2008 ALCS, when Price came out of the bullpen as a rookie to help the Tampa Bay Rays eliminate the Red Sox.
“I still maintain that that 2008 team, we easily would’ve won the World Series that year, had Tampa not bounced us out,” said Kennedy, who also acknowledges that it’s time for Price’s bullpen success in the postseason to carry over to his next postseason start.
“I will tell you, from being around David Price all year long, from getting to know him, I think one of the most difficult things for him was dealing with not feeling 100 percent and dealing with an injury,” said Kennedy. “But he is feeling good, and like Chris Sale, he wants success in the postseason.
“He is relishing this moment. He wants it. You don’t want to put too much pressure on these guys, but you can’t hide from it. This is a huge night for both guys, a great opportunity for both guys.”
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