Red Sox can survive a brief injured list stint from David Price

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 05: David Price #24 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning of the Red Sox home opening game at Fenway Park on April 5, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 05: David Price #24 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning of the Red Sox home opening game at Fenway Park on April 5, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox rotation suffered a setback with Davi Price going on the injured list but they can survive without him in the short term.

Just as their rotation was starting to find its groove, the Boston Red Sox lost the pitcher who has arguably been their best starter this season. David Price‘s injury is a discouraging setback yet one this team can survive as long as it’s only a brief absence.

Price was placed on the 10-day injured list with left elbow tendinitis. The move was made retroactive to May 3, and while he won’t necessarily be ready to return when first eligible, it doesn’t seem as though he’ll miss much longer than that. The lefty told reporters that his latest elbow issue is nothing like the one he endured two years ago and he only expects to miss a start or two.

Expect the Red Sox to tread carefully with their prized pitcher, so we’ll assume he’s going to miss two and perhaps three starts. Price was originally scheduled to pitch today and the earliest he can be activated is May 14, the date he would have been projected to take his next turn following an off day for the team on Monday. It would be no surprise if the Red Sox held Price back at least until the next cycle through the rotation.

Josh Smith‘s first start in a Red Sox uniform was underwhelming. The 31-year old coughed up a grand slam in the second inning and was given the hook after getting into a jam with one out in the fourth against the Baltimore Orioles. He doesn’t inspire much confidence as a Price replacement but he doesn’t need to be. The Red Sox can get by with a four-man rotation thanks to a trio of scheduled off days coming up.

Boston will send Hector Velazquez to the mound tonight, a spot starter who has already been filling in for the injured Nathan Eovaldi. He will be followed by Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Rick Porcello. The team has yet to announce a starter for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Mariners but Thursday’s off day allows them to bring Velazquez back on regular rest, negating the need for a fifth starter.

That bumps up everyone else in the rotation but another off day on May 13 means Sale can open the series against the Colorado Rockies with a full five days of rest between starts. Rodrigeuz would complete the two-game series on his regular four days of rest, followed by another off day on May 16. Porcello would take the mound on Friday, May 17 against the Houston Astros with five days of rest between starts.

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If Price’s elbow injury truly is nothing serious to worry about, he could conceivably make his next start when the rotation turns over again on May 18. That would give him over two weeks between starts, which hopefully is sufficient time for his elbow to stop barking. Price will be chomping at the bit to get back on the mound against an Astros team that the Red Sox defeated in last year’s ALCS.

A return for that pivotal series with Houston would be ideal but the Red Sox can still make it most of the way through another rotation cycle without him. Velazquez could make that start on the 18th, followed by Sale and E-Rod on regular rest.

That’s as far as this plan can last. Porcello wouldn’t be ready to start on Tuesday, May 21 in Toronto after having pitched the previous Friday. Still, that’s a full two weeks from today before the Red Sox actually need a fifth starter. Perhaps this is the spot where Price can slot back into the rotation.

Here’s how the rotation would look leading up to Price’s return if he’s out until the Toronto series.

Tuesday, May 7 @ Baltimore – Velazquez
Wednesday, May 8 @ Baltimore – Sale
Friday, May 10 vs Seattle – Rodriguez
Saturday, May 11 vs Seattle – Porcello
Sunday, May 12 vs Seattle – Velazquez
Tuesday, May 14 vs Colorado – Sale
Wednesday, May 15 vs Colorado – Rodriguez
Friday, May 17 vs Houston – Porcello
Saturday, May 18 vs Houston – Velazquez
Sunday, May 19 vs Houston – Sale
Monday, May 20 @ Toronto – Rodriguez
Tuesday, May 21 @ Toronto – Price

There’s been no indication from the Red Sox that they intend to follow this schedule even if Price is ready by that point, if not earlier. Alex Cora may prefer to use those off days to give his starters some additional rest. We’ve seen the manager make efforts to limit the staff’s workload, when possible, particularly with Sale – although this hypothetical outline already has one extra day off built in for the ace during this stretch.

It’s certainly a feasible plan though. Boston is already relying on one spot starter with Eovaldi on the shelf, presumably longer than Price will be. They don’t have the depth to insert two in their rotation at the same time, as evidenced by Smith’s discouraging outing against the lowly Orioles.

A setback for Price could push his return beyond May 21, which may force them to go back to Smith again. Or perhaps they give an opportunity to a promising prospect such as Darwinzon Hernandez or Mike Shawaryn. At least they have two weeks to figure that out.

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Price’s ailing elbow gave the team a bit of a scare but assuming he only misses a few starts, the Red Sox shouldn’t miss a beat. It’s never ideal to lose one of your best pitchers but Price couldn’t have picked a more convenient point on the calendar to take some time off.