Red Sox face a new challenge in Shohei Ohtani
The focus and intrigue will be on Shohei Ohtani as the Red Sox open up a three-game series in Anaheim, Calif., against the Angels Tuesday night. But let’s not forget about David Price.
Price will make his first start since feeling numbness in his fingers against the Yankees last Wednesday, when he had to come out after allowing four runs in the first inning with the temperature at Fenway Park in the low 40s. Price said he regained feeling in his fingers later that night and played catch the next day. He has done his normal bullpen work and appears fit to pitch Tuesday.
Price opened the season with 14 scoreless innings before last week’s abbreviated start.
Ohtani had his scheduled start Sunday in Kansas City pushed back after the game was postponed because of rain.
The Red Sox are expected to have Mookie Betts back in the lineup after he suffered a left foot contusion Saturday in a home plate collision. Betts lobbied to play Sunday but manager Alex Cora gave him a day off, which turned into a two-day break with Monday’s postponement.
This will be Ohtani’s third start, with the first two coming against the A’s. He retired the first 19 batters he faced in his last start and allowed just one hit and one walk over seven innings while striking out 12. He has retired 35 of the last 38 batters he’s faced.
Sox hitters will be watching Ohtani’s split-fingered fastball. Not many pitchers throw one these days, and batters have been baffled by his. They don’t have a hit off it and have missed 26 times in 37 swings.
Batters also have to contend with Ohtani’s fastball velocity that averages 97.2 miles per hour, which ranks third among pitchers with at least two starts.
The Red Sox won’t see Ohtani as a hitter until perhaps Thursday, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia has given Ohtani the day off in games after he pitches.
In seven starts at DH, he has hit three home runs and knocked in 11 runs.
Overshadowed by Ohtani has been the great Mike Trout, who in his last seven games has hit .385 (10 for 26) with four homers, eight RBIs, and eight runs.
Also hot is Justin Upton, who is 8 for 20 (.400) over his last five games, and Luis Valbuena, who is hitting .387 (12 for 31) with two homers and six RBIs in his last nine games.
Bullpen was big
Cora has been very happy with the Red Sox bullpen, and for good reason. He said he thought about taking out Chris Sale after four innings Sunday because of the poor weather conditions, but Sale went five. Heath Hembree gave the Sox two scoreless innings, which was a huge performance in a 3-1 win. Matt Barnes pitched a scoreless eighth and Craig Kimbrel struck out two batters to record his fifth save. Kimbrel has been lights-out this year and should be available Tuesday after Monday’s postponement . . . Cora kind of gave away the fact that there would be no game Monday when Brian Johnson, Monday’s scheduled starter, was warming up late in Sunday’s game. Johnson will now stay in the bullpen as a lefty reliever with Bobby Poyner on the DL . . . Dustin Pedroia was heading to Fort Myers, Fla., to complete the rehab on his reconstructed knee. Pedroia looks close to turning the corner and playing in games, but the Sox will hold off on that for a while. It’s not known how many games Pedroia would need to play in extended spring training, but he’s eager to return to the lineup.