The last time we saw David Price in October, he was handing the ball to John Farrell and walking off the field in Cleveland, during Game 2 of last year’s ALDS.
It was only the fourth inning, and Price had thrown just 65 pitches. But Farrell had seen enough.
After losing to the Indians in Game 1, the Red Sox trailed 4-0 in what was essentially a must-win Game 2. Price had allowed all four of those runs in the second inning, which included a three-run home run to Cleveland’s No. 8 hitter, left-hander Ronnie Chisenhall, who ripped a low liner down the right-field line.
Fast-forward to the fourth inning, where Price — who looked to have settled down with two strikeouts in a scoreless third — allowed a single and a walk. The walk was the final straw. He had given the No. 9 hitter, Roberto Perez, a free pass. So, out came Farrell. And Price’s day was done.
The Red Sox were eventually swept by the Indians. In the process, the elephant in the room put on a couple pounds.
Outside of the clubhouse, we have no problem discussing it: Price has been no good as a starting pitcher in the postseason. And that’s not up for debate.
Price is 2-8 with a 5.54 ERA in 15 career postseason appearances, nine of which were starts. Do the math, and you’ll notice that Price has made six postseason relief appearances, five of which came in 2008 during his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Rays. He made those five appearances out of the bullpen in the ALCS and World Series combined, going 1-0 with a 1.73 ERA in five-and-two-thirds innings, which included his first career save in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Red Sox.
Since then, October hasn’t been kind to Price. But that’s what makes the Red Sox’ upcoming ALDS series with the Houston Astros so intriguing. Price can’t cleanse himself of the postseason demons, as a starter, until he actually succeeds in the postseason, as a starter. And as far as we know, Price won’t be used as a starter in the ALDS.
While the Red Sox have major questions in their rotation after Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz start Games 1 and 2 respectively, keeping Price in the bullpen for the postseason is the right move here.
He missed the first two months of the season with an elbow injury, then went down in late July and missed another month-and-a-half with the same injury, only to return in mid-September to give the Red Sox eight-and-two-thirds scoreless innings in five appearances out of the bullpen.
Price is throwing with conviction. You can see it in his eyes and with his body language. He’s as confident on the mound as I’ve ever seen him. And in a game that’s built off of routine unlike any other, I don’t know why anybody would want to yank Price out of his current role, which could turn out to be one of the team’s more impactful roles throughout the postseason.
It’s also an opportunity for him to recapture some of that October magic from 2008, when he was a September call-up who ended up being an electric spark that helped catapult Tampa Bay into the World Series.
The Red Sox need him to provide that type of spark out of the bullpen once again. They need him to be available early in games, and be ready to pitch multiple innings. Most importantly, they need him to bail out a rotation that’s got plenty of questions and an offense that has plenty of injuries.
Price’s time to shine — again — in the postseason is right now. And it’s long overdue.
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