ATLANTA — David Price, who starts for the Red Sox on Tuesday night against the Braves, is 2-0 with an unsightly 7.06 earned run average. But it’s not quite as bad as it looks.
Price is averaging 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings, well above his career average of 8.6. His walk rate is the same as his career norm.
The issue is giving up hits. Opponents have a .396 batting average on balls in play, about 100 points higher than Price’s career average.
As a result, Price has averaged only 5⅓ innings per start.
The Red Sox obviously expected much more given their $217 million investment.
“It’s just execution,” Price said. “I feel fine and my mechanics are fine. I need to pitch better. . . . I need to pitch the way I know I can pitch.”
Price has faced the Braves three times in his career and allowed four earned runs over 19 innings.
Their weak lineup comes at the right time for him following a poor performance against the Rays last Thursday. Price allowed eight runs on eight hits in 3⅔ innings in that game.
Price is excited about getting a chance to bat. He is 2 for 37 in his career with 16 strikeouts but enjoys the challenge of hitting and being a complete player.
“It takes you back to being a kid,” Price said.
His goal at the plate is simple.
“See as many pitches as I can,” Price said. “If you’re facing a pitcher and he’s in there for six or seven pitches, that’s the worst thing.”
Like many who grew up in the South, Price was a Braves fan because their games were on TBS. They were also the closest team to his home in Tennessee.
“My family every night got together and ate dinner and watched the Braves play,” he said. “That was something we did every night.”
Hembree hung tough
The Red Sox expect to activate Carson Smith off the disabled list early next month and that will take some of the load off setup men Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara.
In the meantime, and perhaps beyond, Heath Hembree is presenting himself as a viable option for high-leverage situations. Hembree pitched three scoreless innings in Sunday night’s 7-5, 12-inning victory at Houston.
With two runners on base in the 12th, he struck out Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez to end the game. He threw 49 pitches, an impressive 40 for strikes.
“I was getting pretty tired by the end but I had enough,” Hembree said a day later. “Just doing whatever I could at that point.”
Hembree has allowed only four hits over 7⅔ innings in three scoreless appearances. He has walked one, struck out 11, and thrown 91 of 123 pitches for strikes.
“He’s certainly an option,” manager John Farrell said. “The biggest key for Heath has been the addition of his curveball. It’s helped the effectiveness to his fastball.”
Eduardo Rodriguez is going to start his minor league rehabilitation assignment on Thursday. The question is where.
The lefthander, for now, is scheduled to join Single A Salem and pitch in Frederick, Md. But rain is in the forecast, so Rodriguez could be switched to pitch for Triple A Pawtucket in Syracuse or for low Single A Greenville in Salisbury, Md. A final decision might not come until Wednesday.
Rodriguez will need two or three minor league starts before he rejoins the Red Sox.
Smith is scheduled to pitch for Pawtucket on Tuesday at McCoy Stadium. He will likely need three games over a span of five or six days before coming back.
Jason Varitek, who lives in suburban Atlanta, is with the Red Sox for this series as an extra coach . . . Pat Light’s parents, Carol and Doug, made the trip from New Jersey to Houston on Sunday in hopes of seeing him make his major league debut. Light did not get in the game, so the Lights continued on to Atlanta . . . Henry Owens, who lasted only 3⅓ innings Sunday, will remain in the rotation, Farrell said . . . Here’s a strange one. On Sunday, Brock Holt became only the second Red Sox player in at least 100 years to have at least one hit, walk, sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, and run in a game. Milt Bolling did it in 1956.