Red Sox: David Price nearing return; to face live hitters Saturday

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - JULY 22: Starting pitcher David Price
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - JULY 22: Starting pitcher David Price /

It may be time for the Red Sox to finally get excited about David Price’s lagging return. The lefty will face live hitters in a simulated game Saturday.

The Red Sox are scheduled to face off against the Tampa Bay Rays at 7:10 p.m. EST and David Price is scheduled to face off against his own teammates in a simulated game prior to that. Chris Sale is the starter that night so Boston will be able to get a good look at both of their top left-handed starting pitchers while they continue to claw their way towards October.

Price has had numerous ups-and-downs while on the disabled list but this simulated session would be a huge step forward. He is recovering from lingering issues in what the team has termed “a torn elbow” in his left arm. The nagging injury forced him to miss Opening Day and has also forced him to be on and off rehab schedules.

“The last week, he’s gotten on the mound three times and has maintained the stuff,” manager John Farrell said before Wednesday night’s game against Toronto. “That’s what’s most encouraging. For the first (session) in New York to the two here, they’ve been very strong, very positive, now that he’s thrown his secondary pitches with good intensity, all positive trend.”

The Red Sox have not tracked Price’s velocity which could be a concern. However, according to the eye-test, “it’s very close” to normal, Farrell stated.

Simulated sessions are a good way to read how a player will react to a game-like situation. Plus, in Price’s situation, he and Boston will have the feedback of their own major league hitters to give them an idea of how he looks.

“When you start to incorporate the up and down and maybe a little bit more intensity, just by the sheer fact that the hitters will be swinging the bat, there’s a competitive element that starts to kick in. We’ll see how he responds,” said Farrell of simulated sessions.

More from Red Sox News

Price’s simulated session will be about two innings of work and 30 pitches. If things go well and the Red Sox put Price on a five-day rehab schedule, it is assumed that he would need at least two more of these simulated sessions before he’s ready to pitch in an actual game. That is a very aggressive schedule but it would allow him to return to the starting rotation as soon as September 22nd against the Reds in Cincinnati.

However, the Red Sox aren’t ready to publish another schedule for Price’s return. They’ve been cautious of doing so for some time now and remain cautious despite the good signs. They also will have the hard decision of where to put Price one he is healthy.

If he’s healthy enough to start, who does he replace? His “replacement,” Doug Fister, has been fantastic in his recent outings. Last year’s Cy Young winner, Rick Porcello, is the only starter to have some recent serious struggles.

The other option, would be to have Price be moved to the bullpen. This would put less stress on his arm for the postseason and maybe help what has been a very unstable relief staff. Outside of Craig Kimbrel, there hasn’t been one reliever Farrell can rely on every high-leverage situation.

Next: Watch the Standings Closely in September

However, this would be a tough decision considering Price’s ability and value as a starter. He has the potential to completely shut down a top-tier offense for 7+ innings. Using him as a reliever would limit him to one or two innings in most cases. Regardless, he needs to return first and the Red Sox will watch him Saturday then place him on a schedule if things go well. Then everyone will likely be privy to the plan.