Red Sox 2017 Report Cards: Left-handed pitcher David Price
By Sean Penney
Our annual Report Card series evaluates and grades the 2017 season of each member of the Boston Red Sox. Up next – pitcher David Price.
One word sums up the 2017 season for Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price: drama.
It started back in spring training when elbow soreness shut down his throwing program, putting a scare into Red Sox Nation. A visit to renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews left us dreading the worst.
While Price managed to avoid season-ending Tommy John surgery, the fear still lingered that Price’s elbow was a ticking time bomb. His first start of the season was delayed until May 29. He lasted only five innings, throwing 88 pitches and allowing three runs in a loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Price would settle down to record a quality start in seven of his next nine appearances before a five-run shellacking in Los Angeles on July 22. The lefty would be placed back on the shelf with elbow discomfort following that appearances, shutting him down until September.
At that point, Price was 5-3 with a 3.82 ERA in 11 starts. Solid, but hardly the ace-level performance the Red Sox were paying for.
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While his health was a concern throughout the season, his attitude off the field was a bigger problem. Price snapped at CSNNE’s Evan Drellich back in June over a comment the reporter made on Twitter. About a month later came the infamous confrontation with Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley. Apparently, in Price’s mind, sports writers and commentators aren’t allowed to criticize players.
A lack of leadership in the Red Sox clubhouse became one of the themes of this season. The inmates were running the asylum and Price was one of the ringleaders.
When Price finally returned to the team in September it was in a bullpen role. There wasn’t sufficient time to build his pitch count up to a starter’s workload, so converting into a reliever provided Price with his best opportunity to help the team down the stretch.
Price managed to salvage his season with an outstanding finish. He tossed 8 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in September, striking out 13 batters. Thriving in his new role, Price gave the Red Sox a weapon to deploy at any point in the middle innings, similar to how the Cleveland Indians have used Andrew Miller.
The Red Sox were once again eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, only this time we can’t pin any of the blame on Price. He was sensational, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in his two appearances.
Down the stretch and into the postseason, Price showed the ability to command every pitch in his arsenal. His velocity is back and he had great movement on his fastball. If he can carry that success with him into next season, a healthy Price can once again become one of the league’s top starting pitchers.
As much as Price thrived out of the bullpen, we should expect him to reclaim a role in the starting rotation next season. His ceiling is too high and he’s paid far too much money to remain a long reliever.
Price is owed $157 million over the next five seasons. He can opt out to become a free agent after next season, which remains a strong possibility given how uncomfortable he seems playing in a high-pressure city like Boston. However, in order for Price to even consider opting out, he’ll need to have a strong bounce-back campaign in 2018.
Next: Top 5 free agent starting pitcher targets
He fell a bit below expectations during his stint in the rotation but Price’s time in the bullpen helped make up for it. Overall he posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 9.16 K/9. Entering the season, you’d be thrilled if you were told he’d post those type of numbers. His grade takes a hit because of the injuries and mediocre performance as a starter, plus we have to ding him for the negative effect his antics had on the clubhouse.