Boston Red Sox David Price
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price. (Photo: Getty Images)

What should the Boston Red Sox do with David Price?

 

Unfortunately, there’s only one thing they can do in the upcoming ALCS. And that’s to keep him in the starting rotation.

 

I say “unfortunately” because, by now, it’s evident that Price will never be anything remotely close to the sure thing as a starter in the postseason. He reassured everyone of that in Game 2 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park last weekend, being pulled in the second inning after allowing three runs, including two solo home runs.

 

Price picked up the loss, and it was his ninth career postseason loss. He’s 2-9 with a 5.28 ERA in 18 career postseason appearances. All nine of those losses came as a starting pitcher. Both wins came as a reliever.

 

So you tell me where you would prefer Price in the ALCS against the Houston Astros, which begins on Saturday night at Fenway.

 

I’ll tell you where I want him: in the bullpen. Seems like a no-brainer, based on the postseason numbers I just gave you that you already knew about, but also based on the fact that Price was awesome out of the ‘pen in last year’s ALDS against Houston.

Price, who returned from an injury late last September as a reliever, made two appearances in that series, throwing 6.2 shutout innings while striking out six. You could make the argument that he was the Red Sox best player in the entire series. But again, he was a reliever, not a starter.

Entering this season, I was happy to see Price back in the rotation, under the mindset of, “He’s not being paid $30 million a year to come out of the bullpen.” I felt that way, and so did the Red Sox organization.

But Game 2 against the Yankees was his moment to lose. And he lost it. In the process, he became the weak link in the Red Sox’ postseason rotation. Adding insult to injury, Nathan Eovaldi pitched seven brilliant innings in Game 3, followed by Rick Porcello finding a way to win in a five-inning outing in the Game 4 clincher.

Manager Alex Cora announced on Wednesday that Chris Sale will start Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday and that he’s sticking with Price to start Game 2 on Sunday. It seems like Cora might rely on the same strategy he used against the Yankees, and have Eovaldi start Game 3, with Porcello — the Game 4 starter — ready to come out of the bullpen at some point in either Games 1 or 2.

When it comes to Price starting in this series, the Red Sox really don’t have another realistic option. They’re not going to start Eduardo Rodriguez, because he just got lit up by the Astros in early September, allowing five earned runs, including two home runs, in just 3.1 innings pitched. In three career starts against Houston, Rodriguez is 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA. That rules him out.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright was removed from the ALDS roster with a knee injury, making him ineligible for the ALCS. So he’s out too.

The only other option is to rely on Price’s career numbers against the Astros, which are pretty good. Price is 6-2 with a 2.94 ERA against Houston in 12 appearances, including 10 starts.

If I were calling the shots though, I wouldn’t start Price in Game 2. I would start Porcello in Game 2 on Sunday on normal rest, Eovaldi in Game 3, and then Price in Game 4. That way, you only have to use Price as a starter once, and could also use him out of the bullpen in either Games 1 or 2 and Games 6 or 7.

Ideally, the best way to manage it would be to remove Price from the rotation entirely and put him back in the bullpen for the rest of the postseason. Instead, Price will get another shot at redemption as a starter in the ALCS.

Unfortunately, right now, the Red Sox have no other choice.

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