MESA, Ariz. — Had David Price insisted he was ready for a game that counted, the Red Sox probably would have scheduled him to face the Seattle Mariners in the first series of the season.
The lefthander has built up enough capital over the course of his career to make such requests.
Price will instead wait until Monday in Oakland to make his season debut — as a starter. Manager Alex Cora left open the possibility of Price pitching in relief on Thursday or Friday.
“If he wants a tuneup we’ll do a cool thing in Game 1 or 2 in Seattle for him to get his feet wet,” Cora said.
Price looked like a pitcher who needed more work when he faced the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. He retired seven of the first eight batters he faced. Then seven of the next 10 reached base.
Cora disagreed, saying Price threw with good velocity and was sharp. But he also was charged with five earned runs on six hits and two walks over 3⅔ innings in a game the Cubs went on to win, 16-7. Four of the hits were for extra bases.
It wasn’t much of a surprise. Price had pitched only one prior game in spring training and that was back on March 12. He missed his next start because of the flu and has been building up his stamina since.
That’s why Price threw 68 pitches against the Cubs.
“We have to make sure he has enough innings out there,” Cora said. “We got together and he was OK with it.”
Said Price: “I felt strong. Kind of lost the [strike] zone a couple of times. But all in all I feel good and I’m ready for regular-season baseball . . . I wanted to get out there again and we were able to do that today. Not the results I wanted. But to get that work in, that was key.”
Once they determined what was best for Price, the Sox set the rest of their rotation to start the season.
Chris Sale starts Thursday on Opening Day in Seattle. Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and Price will follow him.
Price is not concerned with his spring training results because of how good he feels physically.
“I didn’t get as many reps as I got last year in spring training, but physically I feel this is probably the strongest I’ve felt heading into Opening Day,” he said. “I’m excited to get the ball.”
Price has 10 career relief appearances, five in 2017 when he was recovering from an elbow injury. He also made a relief appearance in the World Series last fall.
So if the Sox ask him to pitch in relief against the Mariners, Price will be ready.
“Just another rep, getting out there in a real game,” he said. “When it counts you do things differently than you do in spring training. To get out there in a real game, it makes everything more natural.”
Barring any unexpected changes, the Sox will open the season with these 25 players:
■ Starting pitchers: RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Rick Porcello, LHP David Price, LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP Chris Sale.
■ Relief pitchers: RHP Matt Barnes, RHP Ryan Brasier, RHP Colten Brewer, RHP Heath Hembree, LHP Brian Johnson, RHP Tyler Thornburg, RHP Hector Velazquez, RHP Brandon Workman.
■ Catchers: Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez.
■ Infielders: Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez, Sam Travis.
■ Outfielders: Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez.
“We have a good team. We’re very talented,” Cora said. “Everybody knows we’re very versatile.
“We can do a lot of things offensively. From 1-5 we feel pretty good about the [starting pitchers] we’re throwing out there.
“Our No. 5 is David Price, which he’s not the five. We’ll take that.”
As the Sox begin defense of their championship, it will be with largely the same lineup and rotation but also with a remade bullpen.
“You know how I feel about the bullpen. We answered a few questions, we still have to answer the questions throughout the season,” Cora said.
“But we’re comfortable with them. It’s just a matter of finding the matchups.”
Now the Sox start the challenge of being the first team since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000 to repeat as champions.
“We know what we’re going against,” Cora said. “We know that repeating is not easy. We have the perfect group to stay focused and not listen to the noise and stay locked in for more than 162 games.
“You saw it last year. It was the best testament of who they are. They’re very humble, very hungry. We survived spring training and we’re ready to go for Thursday.”