Jesse Pantuosco

Spring Training Daily

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ST Daily: Paying the Price

Friday, March 3, 2017


Okay Red Sox fans, what do you want first—the good news or the bad news? I’m sure some of you haven’t had your coffee yet (you’re probably reading this on your phone at Starbucks right now, waiting for the barista to spell your name wrong on the cup) so let’s start off with some good news. The Red Sox wiped the floor with the Rays on Thursday, clobbering them 19-2 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Jackie Bradley Jr. led the way with a pair of home runs while Eduardo Rodriguez fired two scoreless innings for the win.

 

Hopefully that lifted your spirits a bit. Now you might want to sit down for what I’m about to say next. If you’re a major league pitcher, there’s one person you never want to meet. No, not Mike Trout. I’m talking about James Andrews, the go-to doctor for Tommy John surgery.

 

This is the part where I tell you that David Price will meet with Andrews Friday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. And Price isn’t going just to watch Leonard Fournette run the 40. Price felt soreness in his left elbow earlier this week, prompting an MRI. Speaking after Thursday’s game against the Rays, manager John Farrell described Price’s MRI results as “inconclusive.”

 

Before you lose your mind like Michael Scott when Toby came back, Price did say his elbow felt better after receiving treatment on Thursday. And not that it means much because managers are programmed to be glass half full, but Farrell remains confident that the injury isn’t anything serious. The Red Sox scratched Price from his scheduled start Sunday against Atlanta, but so far that’s it.

 

Any time Andrews’ name comes up in connection with a pitcher, especially one who’s thrown as many innings as Price, it’s a cause for concern. Not to mention that Price is also meeting with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, another famed surgeon with a Rolodex full of A-list clients. These are two of the heaviest hitters in sports medicine. Neither of them would waste their time on Price if his injury was just a tweak. Clearly everyone involved views this as something significant.

 

Or maybe, and I’m really summoning my eternal optimist here, the Red Sox are simply doing their due diligence. After all, they sunk a record $217 million into Price. That’s quite an investment. If you put that much money into something, wouldn’t you want to do everything you could to protect it?

 

I could spend another 10 paragraphs wildly speculating but the truth of the matter is, we don’t have all the pieces and we’re not going to until Andrews and ElAttrache roll up their sleeves and take a look. For our convenience, beat writer Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe laid out the two most likely scenarios: 1) Price undergoes elbow reconstructive surgery and misses about a year or 2) Price lets his elbow rest up, makes a handful of rehab starts and comes back at the end of April. So there isn’t much middle ground here. Andrews’ diagnosis is either going to be great news or the Red Sox’s worst nightmare.

 

Price has been fairly durable throughout his career but the innings add up. The left-hander has logged at least 200 frames in five of his last six seasons with the lone exception coming in 2013 when he recorded 186 2/3 innings for the Rays. The last three seasons have been particularly taxing with Price averaging just under 233 innings during that span. And that doesn’t include playoff appearances. There’s a ton of mileage on that arm and we saw the effects last season. Price’s 3.99 ERA was his highest since 2009 while his average fastball velocity (92.9 mph) matched a career-low.

 

Boston’s previous GM, Ben Cherington, never would have committed seven years to Price, who was already 30 when he signed with Boston. But Dave Dombrowski still took the plunge, knowing full well that the last three or four years of the deal could be a complete disaster. What Dombrowski didn’t plan for was Price enduring a relatively lackluster first season in Boston and now dealing with a potentially serious injury.

 

Even if Price is no longer a perennial Cy Young contender, he’d still be a big loss for the Red Sox. Lefties always create matchup problems and Price is a proven innings eater who can pitch deep into games. Though his strikeout totals were still high last season, Price was actually a better pitcher when he stopped relying as heavily on Ks in the second half. Realizing that his velocity was no longer enough to overpower hitters, Price became more of a finesse pitcher, mixing in secondary pitches and throwing more curve balls than ever. Price’s K/9 fell from 10.13 to 7.50 after the All-Star break, but his ERA improved from 4.34 to 3.58.

 

Those splits are encouraging. Instead of stubbornly throwing the same pitches and hoping for different results, Price is reinventing himself. He’s already begun the transition away from power-pitching, which will come in handy as his athleticism and physical skills diminish in the second half of his career.

 

Losing Price would be an obstacle to overcome, but it wouldn’t cripple the Red Sox’s chances. Even without David Ortiz, Boston might still have the best offense in baseball with Mookie Betts developing into a legitimate superstar and Xander Bogaerts not far behind. And let’s not forget that Dustin Pedroia, the oldest player on Boston’s roster, finished third in the American League in batting average last year.

 

But most importantly, the Red Sox have a pair of aces who can step in and fill Price’s shoes. Chris Sale was absolutely unhittable in his seven years with the White Sox and at 27, there’s a good chance his best years are still ahead of him. That’s a frightening thought for AL East teams that have to face Sale four or five times a year. Rick Porcello overachieved in 2016, but if he comes anywhere close to duplicating his Cy Young season from a year ago, the Red Sox will have another arm they can trust.

 

Now we wait. Your move, James Andrews.

 

Editor’s Note: Mookie Betts graces the cover of the new Rotoworld Draft Guide magazine. You can find it in stores now or order right here. Our online version of the draft guide is also live and packed with everything you need to know to get ready for your fantasy draft.

 

 

AL Quick Hits: Hanley Ramirez has bowed out of the World Baseball Classic. Shoulder soreness has kept Ramirez from playing first base this spring, though he homered as a DH in Thursday’s Grapefruit League win over the Rays. Jean Segura was added to the Dominican Republic’s roster in place of Ramirez … Andrew Cashner has been shut down with biceps tendinitis. The Rangers gave Cashner a one-year, $10 million contract this offseason despite posting an underwhelming 5.25 ERA over 28 outings for the Marlins and Padres last season … Albert Pujols believes he’s close to making his Cactus League debut. Pujols had surgery for plantar fasciitis in December but has already resumed hitting and fielding at Angels camp … Josh Donaldson fielded grounders without issue on Wednesday. Donaldson strained his right calf on one of the first days of spring training but should resume Grapefruit League play sometime next week … Lance McCullers is slated to pitch a simulated game on Saturday. If that goes well, we could see him in a Grapefruit League game as soon as next week. McCullers has been working his way back from an elbow injury he suffered last August.

 

NL Quick Hits: MLB passed several new rules on Thursday including no-pitch intentional walks. Some of the other changes include a 30-second window for managers to challenge a play, a two-minute limit for reviews and a new rule that prohibits pitchers from taking a second step toward home plate during their delivery. The latter could be an issue for Padres reliever Carter CappsJung Ho Kang received an eight-month suspended sentence for his December DUI arrest in South Korea. Kang will be able to avoid jail time if he keeps a clean record for the next two years and can immediately return to Pirates spring training … Jimmy Rollins drew the start at second base in Thursday’s Cactus League game against the White Sox. It was Rollins’ first appearance at second base in 15 years. Rollins fielded a clean game, though his Giants teammates committed six errors in an 8-6 loss … Johnny Cueto will arrive at Giants camp on Friday. Cueto is bringing his ill father with him from the Dominican Republic but has been delayed by visa issues. Because of the late start he’s getting this spring, Cueto won’t pitch in the first round of the World Baseball Classic and might miss the whole tournament … Buster Posey was scratched for the second day in a row on Thursday but expects to return for Friday’s Cactus League game against the Athletics. He’s been dealing with a stiff neck. Posey and teammate Brandon Crawford will leave spring training next week to represent the United States in the WBC … John Lackey is entering his 15th major league season but it doesn’t sound like he’s given much thought to retirement. "I feel great," said the 38-year-old. "At the end of the year, if I feel good, I will keep playing” … Jason Heyward spent the offseason reworking his swing but we’re still waiting for the improvements to take effect. He’s hitless in 11 at-bats through four spring training games … The Cubs have named Jon Lester their Opening Day starter. Last year that honor went to Jake Arrieta … Speaking of Arrieta, the right-hander is reportedly seeking a deal similar to the seven-year, $210 million contract Max Scherzer signed with Washington in 2015. Meanwhile the Cubs are only willing to offer Arrieta a three or four-year contract. With talks going nowhere, Arrieta will likely become a free agent after this season … Justin Turner returned to the Dodgers’ lineup on Thursday and reached base twice in a win over Cleveland. Turner needed a few days to heal after receiving a knee injection on Sunday … David Wright has been diagnosed with a right shoulder impingement. He’s been cleared to hit but we won’t see Wright in any Grapefruit League games until he’s able to throw, which could be a while … Mets prospect Luis Guillorme probably won’t make the team’s Opening Day roster but man was this an impressive grab. Nothing to see here, just your run-of-the-mill one-handed bat catch … Cardinals minor league pitcher Ryan Sherriff has been walking to spring training because he doesn’t have a car. Adam Wainwright helped him out by renting Sherriff an all-expenses paid Nissan Altima. Sherriff said the gesture brought him to tears.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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