Red Sox: David Price confident he’s fixed fastball command issues

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

David Price knows he wasn’t his usual dominant self in his first season with the Boston Red Sox, but more importantly he knows how to fix it.

Most pitchers would be satisfied with the results that David Price produced last season for the Boston Red Sox.

David Price is not most pitchers.

The left-hander led the American League in innings pitched, while finishing fifth in K/BB ratio and ninth in strikeout rate, yet his first year in Boston was still deemed a disappointment. He pitched well, but the Red Sox expected him to pitch great after shelling out $217 million to sign him last winter.

The stat that jumps out the most from Price’s resume last season is his 3.99 ERA, the highest he’s posted since his rookie season. He owned an ERA under 3.50 in every season since then until last year and has a stellar 3.21 ERA for his career. Not that ERA is the most accurate way of evaluating a pitcher’s performance by any means, but it is a commonly used measurement understood even by casual fans.

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What led to Price’s inflated ERA? His strikeout and walk rates were a bit off from what we’ve seen in recent seasons, but still a tick better than his career rates. The problem is that he gave up far too many hits. Ignore the fact that he led the majors in hits allowed, since that’s partially a function of also tossing the most innings. Focus on the career-high 8.9 H/9 and a 1.2 HR/9 rate that equals his rookie season for the worst home run rate of his career.

Fenway Park is far more hitter-friendly than Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay or even Comerica Park in Detroit, where Price has spent the bulk of his career. That certainly plays a part, but doesn’t tell the full story. The nine-year veteran thrived in his brief stint in Toronto and has plenty of experience navigating the deep lineups of the AL East.

Price summarized his first year in Boston as “extremely inconsistent,” but the good news is that he believes he’s identified the issue that led to his discouraging season. The southpaw told CSNNE’s Nick Friar that it all boils down to his command.

"“For me, it stems off commanding that fastball,” explained Price. “That was something I didn’t do nearly as well last year. Whenever I tried to throw a two-seam to my glove-side, it would leak back over the middle of the plate. Whenever I would try to throw a four-seamer away to a righty it would cut back over the middle.“That’s something I can fix. That’s something I’ve always done well is being able to command my fastball on both sides of the plate with both [my] two-seam and four-seam. Whenever you can do that, that’s what opens the door to everything else . . . These hitters don’t want to get beat by a fastball — they definitely don’t want to get beat in by a fastball.”"

It’s the same story that Price has been reciting since early last season when frustration over his rocky start began to build. If he knew what the problem was back then, why didn’t he fix it earlier?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple to fix a mechanical issue in the midst of a season when your next start is a mere five days away. Now that he’s had a full offseason to focus on making adjustments, Price feels confident that he can get back on track.

Price credits the time he’s spent the past couple of weeks playing catch with Oakland A’s pitcher Sonny Gray for helping him regain his control.

"“That’s something you’ve gotta be able to do — play catch with a purpose, to lock in on that target,” said Price. “Aim small. Then you develop that feeling of being able to throw the ball wherever you want. Then you don’t have to think about it, it just comes second nature. That’s the way a fastball should be.”"

As disappointed as Price was with his 2016 season, it’s not as if he was horrible. After getting torched on numerous occasions over the first six weeks of the season, Price ripped off a 24-start stretch in which he posted a 3.06 ERA. Sure, there were a few stinkers tossed in there, but every pitcher has an off day once in a while.

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The slow start had Price playing from behind all year, so it wasn’t until the end of August when he finally saw his ERA dip below 4.00. The narrative that his season was a bust had already been cemented by then and his stumble down the stretch and into the postseason sealed it.

He’s not the first pitcher to hit a rough patch after coming to Boston – just ask reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. There’s a history of Red Sox pitchers that have bounced back from a dismal debut season and Price’s own track record provides ample reason to believe he’ll be the next to join that list. As long as he’s regained control of his fastball then there’s little reason to doubt that he’ll once again be counted among the league’s elite starters.

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Price is feeling the itch to get back on the mound and he’s eager to start spring training, where he’ll begin to prove that he’s put last year’s struggles behind him.