TORONTO — David Price again declined to speak to the Boston media, this time about his first experience pitching from a mound since his latest injury setback. Guess we’ll have to wait for “The Athletic” to find out what really happened in the bullpen at Rogers Centre on Wednesday afternoon.
Although what is there to say about throwing 20 fastballs off a bullpen mound?
Manager John Farrell and pitching coaches Carl Willis and Brian Bannister watched as their $31 million-per-year pitcher did his most significant work since going on the disabled list. The goal is to get Price back in the rotation or bullpen sometime in September and then see where he is in October.
“The goal for today was accomplished,” Farrell said. “I think today was about acclimating to the angle of the mound. We’re not taking about game speed but a progressive step.”
Farrell didn’t even know the next time Price would do a mound session because the trainers evaluate him on Thursday in New York.
In his last words to The Athletic, a story written by Ken Rosenthal, Price likened his injury to what Nolan Ryan experienced in 1986, when Dr. Frank Jobe told him he needed Tommy John surgery and Ryan, who would soon turn 40, refused. During the offseason the injury healed because the ligament calcified and it stabilized the elbow.
Price told Rosenthal the same thing might be happening with him.
“It’s kind of the lower triceps — that’s where I felt it,” Price said. “It wasn’t pain. And it was only on an offspeed pitch. The days that I played catch in Seattle [before his second trip to the DL this season], I could throw as hard as I wanted with the fastball, and it was fine. But when I spun a breaking ball or threw a changeup, that’s when I felt it.”
Price thought he might need Tommy John, but “it heals itself. It lays down bone on my ligament. It calcifies and turns into bone.”
Whatever the injury, Price has been on an upswing lately after a lengthy throwing program, spinning off breaking balls and changeups.
Question is, will this progress be enough to get him pitching in September and in the playoffs? And before you chime in with you don’t want him pitching in the playoffs, don’t be so short-sighted. Pitchers often turn those situations around. Surely, Chris Sale will have to do that against the Indians when, and if, he faces them in the postseason.
Price’s biggest job is to get to the point where he can pitch again, whether that’s as a starter or reliever. Whatever he can build up to would be welcomed by Farrell and the pitching staff. Price actually has had his best playoff outings as a reliever, so being in the bullpen may not be such a bad thing. Obviously when you’re paying a pitcher an average of $31 million a year you’d like that to come in the form of starts, but getting him back in any capacity would be preferable.
With the end of the minor league season, simulated games will have to do. Of course, there’s not the same adrenaline flowing, and the hitters aren’t exactly in game-like situations. So the whole exercise is underwhelming, except it stretches the pitcher out.
Farrell has no idea what this is leading to, but we asked nonetheless.
“What we need to do is let’s get him close to game speed first,” said Farrell. “We don’t know how long that’s going to take yet. It’s not putting David in the position of cutting corners or taking shortcuts. We have to do what’s right by him physically and health-wise and we’ll see where are on the calendar.
“We realize that days are ticking away. What that demands for the eventual role, it’s too early to determine that.”
Price also needs to repair his image in Boston, though we’re not sure that’s on his to-do list. He’s remained staunch in his stance against Dennis Eckersley, the Hall of Famer he called out in front of his teammates on a team flight because of what he thought were overly critical remarks about the team on NESN.
Not sure how you can pitch in Boston for that kind of salary and be that thin-skinned.
Eckersley has not been interested in talking it out with Price. What’s done is done, and Price never thought he had to say he was sorry.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, need to win their division, and also figure out their playoff rotation.
Right now it seems that Eduardo Rodriguez is the odd man out if the Sox go with a four-man rotation.
Doug Fister has pitched well recently, and he’s the only Red Sox pitcher to have won a postseason start. In fact, he’s 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA in eight playoff starts.
Rodriguez just hasn’t got going. So you have Sale, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello. To be able to add Price to the mix or to the bullpen would be key.
Because Price doesn’t feel an obligation to speak to the media and to Red Sox fans about his comeback given his salary speaks volumes, but the only thing that anyone really cares about is whether he can pitch in the playoffs. And while some would say, “Don’t hurry back,” the Red Sox are a better team if he returns.