Drew Pomeranz is heading to the bullpen. Rob Bradford of WEEI reported Tuesday that the All-Star starting pitcher, acquired by the Red Sox just after the All-Star break, will not start Thursday and instead will be put into the Red Sox bullpen.
The move comes as a result of a career-high workload of 169.1 innings as well as a sore left forearm. This is by no means ideal, but with Rick Porcello finishing up what appears to be a Cy Young caliber season, Eduardo Rodriguez pitching better than he ever has before, and Clay Buchholz on the rebound, Pomeranz was already facing a possible bump to the bullpen for the playoffs.
Most teams employ a four-man rotation for the playoffs. But it is that fourth name that might cause the most concern for the Red Sox as well as their fans.
That name is David Price.
Price is the staff ace, at least as far as resume and contract go he is.
Price has won a Cy Young award, he’s been selected to five All-Star teams and he signed a franchise-record seven-year, $217 million contract this past offseason.
Price will be a part of the Red Sox playoff rotation. After an uncharacteristically bad start to the 2016 season, Price turned a corner and settled into a very dominant stretch. From July 1 to September 1 Price went 5-3 with an ERA of 2.87. The general feeling was that Price had solved whatever issues plagued him through the first half of the 2016 season, and that he would be the Cy Young caliber starter that the Red Sox signed him to be last offseason.
For part of September, he was. Through the first three starts of September, Price was 3-0, with an ERA of 2.25. Problem solved right? Price was the ace, the Red Sox were lucky enough to have two aces. They would head into the playoffs with as tough a one-two punch as any team in the American League.
Except for one problem. As September continued, Price’s performance has fallen-off.
His last three starts have been underwhelming. Price is 1-1 with an ERA of 6.52, and no matter how you slice and dice the stats, the results are the results, and they’re not so good.
The biggest red flag is probably the amount of home runs Price has given up. Home runs have always been a problem for Price, even at his best, he been prone to allowing the long ball. Prior to this season, he’s allowed 20 or more home runs in a single season three times. This season he’s allowed a career-high 29 long balls, and Tuesday night facing the Yankees, with the AL East title within the Red Sox reach, Price allowed three home runs, the most he’s given up in a single game since May 16, 2015 when the Cardinals hit three solo shots off him.
Price is fully aware of his current shortcomings. Following Tuesday night’s loss, he told Matt Dolloff of CBS Sports Boston that he wasn’t pleased with his performance.
“I’ve been throwing the baseball well the last couple starts and to have a chance to clinch the division for us here, it’s not acceptable,” Price said about his outing. “If our offense scores me four runs, I feel like I should go out there and be able to win. That hasn’t been the case a lot of the time this year and that wasn’t the case tonight.”
That wasn’t the only thing Price said.
“I’m fine mentally, I’m fine physically. … [I] didn’t do it tonight, but so what? I’ll get them next time. That’s what I’ve said all year and I’ve done a much better job of it in the second half … I’m not going to be great every time out there.”
That’s not good. There’s just no way to sugarcoat the issue. The Red Sox need Price to be much better than what he’s shown down the stretch. Everyone knows that Price has the potential to pitch at an elite level, every time he takes the mound there’s a legitimate chance Price could go nine innings, strikeout 10 or more batters and hold the opposition to one run or less.
The issue of course is the playoffs, that’s where the whole “I’ll get them the next time…” part of the quote becomes troublesome. Very often in the playoffs, there is no next time, not unless you’re referring to next spring.
Price’s first season in Boston has been a bit of a tease. He’s been dominant at times, but he’s also on pace to finish with his highest earned run average since his first full season in the majors (2009.) Price currently leads the league in games started, innings pitched, and batters faced. Those are all good things but here’s what’s not-so-good, Price also leads the league in hits allowed.
People have tried to speculate about the various reasons for Price’s struggles. The weather? His posture on the mound? Nerves? His velocity? At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter that much. Results are results and as of Tuesday night, Price’s recent results are reason for concern.
With the Red Sox magic number to clinch the American League East down to just one, Price’s performance for the remainder of the regular season is most likely not critical to the team’s success.
Just over one week from today, the playoffs will start. The Red Sox will most likely find themselves facing either the winner of a single-game wild card game, or the Texas Rangers or Cleveland Indians.
Those games will matter a lot, and no matter how impressive Eduardo Rodriguez has been as of late, or how nice the Clay Buchholz redemption tour is to witness, or how great it has been to watch Rick Porcello morph into a Cy Young contender, a large portion of the Red Sox success hinges on David Price pitching like the ace that they signed him to be.
Drew Pomeranz? He might end up as valuable member of the Red Sox postseason bullpen.
David Price? That’s the guy the Red Sox need to be most concerned with right now. The postseason depends a lot on the Price being right, and right now, he’s not.