ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Price has not faced a batter in the seventh inning since June 2. The lefthander has given the Red Sox only 38⅓ innings in eight starts since.
The Sox need more from Price, who faces the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon to end the series and a six-game road trip.
Opposing hitters have fouled off an average of 21.2 pitches in Price’s last six starts, making him labor to get through innings. He has lacked the ability to put hitters away when needed.
Price allowed seven earned runs over only nine innings in his last two starts, both losses for the Sox.
“His cutter hasn’t been up to par for his ability,” pitching coach Dana LeVangie said Tuesday. “That’s one of the best pitches in the game, his backdoor cutter. Too many extended at-bats.”
LeVangie and Price have evaluated the issue with the aim of gaining more efficiency. The Sox need all of their starters to go deeper, but Price in particular.
“Getting a solid six [innings] is a big part of our team’s success. That’s what we had last year,” LeVangie said. “It’s definitely a priority.”
Manager Alex Cora understands that teams have an approach to make Price work and get his pitch count up. But the Sox have to counter that.
“Take a look at where we’re going with pitches and all that,” he said. “Try and induce the opposition to quick outs. That’s important.”
Marco Hernandez has hit .339 with an .859 OPS in 27 games for the Red Sox this season after missing nearly two years recovering from a shoulder injury that required three surgeries.
His many contributions have included the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning at Toronto on July 4 and a game-tying blast in the ninth inning at Baltimore on June 16 in a game the Sox went on to win in extra innings.
But Hernandez was demoted to Triple A Pawtucket when Mitch Moreland was activated off the injured list.
The Sox elected to keep righthanded-hitting Sam Travis on the roster to have better balance on the bench. Hernandez and Moreland are lefty hitters.
Hernandez is 7 of 23 (.304) against lefthanded pitchers this season. Travis is 8 of 29 (.276) but had two home runs.
“It’s a tough one because [Hernandez] is playing well. But at the same time he needs to keep playing,” Cora sad. “He did everything he was supposed to do. It’s just a baseball decision and roster-wise it makes sense.”
With Moreland back, the Sox have Travis and Michael Chavis as righthanded options at first base. Chavis also can play second base and Travis left field.
There are no plans to try Chavis in the outfield.
Chavis was out of the starting lineup for the third consecutive game Tuesday because of back spasms. He pinch hit in the eighth, striking out on three pitches, then took over at second base.
Out of position
One of the rules Major League Baseball will implement next season will prohibit position players from pitching unless the game is in extra innings or their team is ahead or behind by six runs.
With the Red Sox leading, 8-3, on Monday, the Rays used second baseman Mike Brosseau to pitch the ninth inning. He allowed a run on three hits.
The Orioles pitched outfielder Steve Wilkerson for two innings Saturday against the Sox after falling behind, 16-6. Baltimore has used position players for six innings this season.
“It’s a tough one,” Cora said. “It’s happened to us twice in weird circumstances. A five-run game, they had a reason to do it. It’s one of those that puts you in a tough spot, too. While they’re saving their pitching, we have to finish the game with our pitching.
“They have their reasons. Like I always say, I’m managing my team. They decided they wanted to save their bullpen and they did.”
The Sox were 5 of 13 against Wilkerson and Brosseau and scored two runs. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi were 0 for 2.
Florida man homers
When J.D. Martinez cracked a three-run homer in the third inning Monday, it was his first in the state of Florida since Aug. 19, 2014, when he was a member of the Tigers and connected off Tampa Bay’s Joel Peralta. Martinez, who is from Miami, snapped a streak of 78 at-bats without a home run in Florida . . . Brian Johnson, who pitched two innings Sunday for Triple A Pawtucket, will work on a five-day routine and build up innings. The Sox plan to use the lefty as a long reliever once he returns, or as a starter, if the need arises. Johnson has been on the injured list since June 27 with a non-baseball injury . . . Tampa Bay third baseman Yandy Diaz, who fouled a ball off his left foot in the ninth inning Monday, was placed on the injured list. He is 16 of 39 (.410) with five extra-base hits and seven RBIs in 10 games against the Sox this season. Matt Duffy was activated off the injured list and started at third base . . . Moreland and his wife, Susannah, are seeking donations for their Christmas in July event for patients at Boston Children’s Hospital on July 30. From Thursday to Sunday, fans can drop off new toys or craft items at Gate A or D at Fenway Park through the end of the first inning. Gift cards also will be welcomed.