The initial result wasn’t great, but the significance of David Price’s return to the Boston Red Sox cannot be overstated.
Price made his season debut on Monday in Chicago. He left the game with a no-decision after allowing three runs in five innings. The three runs came on a Melky Cabrera three-run home run in the third inning that gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead.
The right-handed Cabrera crushed a first-pitch 95-mph fastball middle-in. Price didn’t have picture-perfect command in the game, and that was just one example. But he did showcase a fastball in the mid-90’s that should please anyone who’s hoping he can stay healthy for the rest of the year.
Since Price signed with the Red Sox before last season, he’s been a somewhat controversial pitcher in Boston. He’s not the easiest player to root for, and the mystery behind his sore left elbow in spring training certainly didn’t help his cause. Especially when he told the media in March that if he was “22 or 23 years old” doctors would have recommended elbow surgery.
Price, 31, was scratched from his first spring training start this year, and he has slowly ramped it up since then. From “putting a ball in flight” to making his final minor-league rehab stint last week, the question wasn’t, “Will we see Price return this year?” Instead it was, “When he returns, how long will he be back for?”
His consistent velocity in the mid-90’s on Monday was an encouraging sign. And it confirms a certain level of health that Price and the team were obviously looking for when they announced he would be ready to make his season debut after allowing six runs in his final rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket.
Price didn’t talk to the media immediately after that game. But his velocity was also reportedly in the mid-90’s. The fact that nobody was concerned about Price’s stat line afterwards was a clear indication that the goal was to reach back and turn it up to the highest notch, for the sole purpose of seeing how he feels the next day. And well, the next day, it was announced that Price was ready to return to the Red Sox’ rotation.
Monday’s season debut wasn’t his best start. But it was good enough to convince me that Price should have a huge impact on the 2017 season.
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Think about it. Whether you like his sometimes thin-skinned and insecure personality, the Sox just added another starting pitcher who has Cy Young potential. Take away the $30 million per year, and you’re looking at an All-Star caliber lefty who can still be an ace in this league.
Last year — his first season with the Red Sox — his velocity was down at times, seemingly lower than it was when he was dominating for Tampa Bay, Detroit, and then Toronto. He wasn’t his overpowering self last season by any means, but still ended up 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA and 228 strikeouts.
Questions remain about his personality and how it meshes in Boston, and he’s still looking to rid himself of the postseason demons. But in a league where starting pitching is the key to success, there aren’t many teams adding this type of arm to the top of their rotation in June.
Add him to a group that already has a dominant Chris Sale, a coming-into-his-own Eduardo Rodriguez, and a reigning Cy Young award-winner in Rick Porcello, and you have one of the more dangerous starting rotations in all of baseball.
Now, Price just needs to stay healthy. If he can do that and keep his velocity in the mid-90’s, then this could be the most important in-season addition the Red Sox make all year.
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