Red Sox

Drellich: Moving Price to bullpen can say different things about Red Sox' faith in him

Drellich: Moving Price to bullpen can say different things about Red Sox' faith in him

BOSTON — Let’s not pretend the decision to move to David Price to the bullpen was primarily about time, or the lack thereof, to build up his pitch count.

There are enough games, enough days, to get Price up and running as a starter, even if it’s for just five innings at the get-go in the regular season. There is time to try and then back away and put Price in the ‘pen, if the Sox wanted to.

They don’t want to. And the fact they don’t is a clear referendum on the state of the bullpen, as well as clouded commentary on the pitcher himself.

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There were notable two left-handed relievers activated from the disabled list in the American League on Thursday: Price and Andrew Miller. 

The Red Sox want the former to become the latter. Need, in fact. Because beyond Craig Kimbrel and Addison Reed, there’s a game of musical chairs. 

Consider that even in close games down the stretch, manager John Farrell has to do some information-gathering with his reliever usage.

“There’s a short list of those things right now, yes,” Farrell said Thursday afternoon, after a 6-2 Sox win over the A’s where he used five relievers. “And that’s a fallout of some internal conversations, part of the [desire to use the] hot hand or part of that information gathering. It’s balanced with a pennant race and the importance of finishing out games as best possible. But, as it starts to build toward these last remaining games, yeah, there’s some of that that’s going on currently.”

Price shores up a weakness. 

At the same time, the fact the Sox don’t want Price to try to start creates an open-ended question of management’s faith in a $31 million pitcher. 

You could go both ways. Asking Price to switch roles could be looked at as a move of great faith in the southpaw, because they believe in Price’s ability to adjust to a role he’s had little experience with. 

On the other hand, you could argue the Sox are showing they do not believe in Price’s ability to make an effective, quick return as a starter — a progression that Sox manager John Farrell said would be “aggressive.”

Aggressive. . . that’s the idea on the bases, isn’t it? That’s a lot different than impossible, or unreasonable.

There was no suggestion that Price physically is not capable of coming back as a starter, mind you. The choice has not been described to be a decision based on doctor’s orders.

“Recognizes the limited availability of time and to build back up so logically this is a spot and is accepting of the role,” Farrell said Thursday of Price’s role. “He wants to get back and pitch. He wants to get back and compete.”

Here, hypothetically, is another way he could compete: Price could throw four innings Sept. 18 in a sim game, staying on regular rest after his three-inning sim game Wednesday. He could have thrown five innings Sept. 23 in a return start in the majors, and a targeted six innings Sept. 28.

The argument inevitably moves to the value of Price as a starter vs. a reliever, and it’s layered. Will Price be more effective in relief than he would as a starter? Would he be better able to shed rust ahead of the playoffs if he can forego building up his pitch count? Possibly. 

A potential drawback: presumably, in the span of a short series, the Red Sox will get fewer innings out of Price as a reliever than they would were he a starter. Yet, having Price available in more games earlier in a series could also be advantageous.

So the Red Sox have made their plan with Price, and there’s one certainty it points to: the uncertainty in the bullpen. Reed, Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Robby Scott and Brandon Workman all pitched Thursday, and all seem likely to make a presumed playoff roster. At least as of now.

“Well, we can’t turn away from what has gone on the entire season and the full body of work,” Farrell said when asked if the ‘pen is the big question down the stretch. “There may be additional weight on these final two weeks, but I can’t say it would revamp a whole bridging to [Craig] Kimbrel.”

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NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs

CHICAGO -For the Los Angeles Dodgers, it's beginning to look a lot like 1988.

Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip - on a long foul ball in the first inning.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and company to the championship 29 years ago. Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. Their patient lineup is coming up big in key spots and their pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline.

Not even a return to Wrigley Field could get the Cubs back on track after a rough stay in Los Angeles. Chicago manager Joe Maddon juggled his lineup, inserting Kyle Schwarber into the No. 2 slot and benching slumping second baseman Javier Baez, but the defending World Series champions were shut down by another Dodgers starter and more stellar relief from the NL West champions.

Making their third straight appearance in the NLCS, the weary Cubs also hurt themselves with a couple of big mistakes. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, continuing a rocky postseason for the reliever and leading to a round of boos from a frustrated crowd of 41,871. A passed ball brought home another run in the eighth, and pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.

Darvish departed after striking out Addison Russell in the seventh, pausing for congratulations from his whole infield before heading to the dugout. The Japanese right-hander allowed six hits, including Schwarber's first-inning homer, in his second career playoff win - both coming this year. He struck out seven and walked one.

Tony Watson got two outs, Brandon Morrow worked the eighth and Kenley Jansen closed it out after Ross Stripling gave up two hits in the ninth. With manager Dave Roberts pushing all the right buttons, Los Angeles' bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.

The Cubs finished with eight hits, one more than in the first two games combined.

The only four-game postseason sweep for the Dodgers came in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. If Los Angeles can finish off Chicago on Wednesday, the Dodgers would have days off before hosting the Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series opener.

Schwarber's sixth career postseason homer got Chicago off to a fast start, but Jon Jay struck out with two on to end the inning. The Dodgers responded with Ethier's leadoff drive in the second and Taylor's second homer of the series in the third, a mammoth shot to center off losing pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

Ethier had two hits in his first start of this year's playoffs after he missed most of the season with a herniated lumbar disk. Taylor also had two hits and is 4 for 14 for the series, helping make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager to a back injury.

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ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

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ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

NEW YORK -  With a soaring shot headed for Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on track for another memorable October.

Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter. New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in their last 21 home games.

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate marred in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"Once we're within striking distance like that, anything can happen," Judge said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a double to left, and pinch hitter Chase Headley then did the same - only after falling between first and second base, taking one step back, then heading for second and sliding in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Panic," Headley recalled. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds, but fortunately it worked out."

Brett Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled crowd on its feet.

He reached down to stay with a slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Gardner came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros had just three hits and are hitting .153 in the series.

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings but again had no run support. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off, and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Robertson walked Altuve and struck out Carlos Correa before Yuri Gurriel lined a three-run double past Frazier and all the way to the wall. Gurriel got hung up between second and third as Altuve scored, and he was tagged out by Judge to end a rundown.

Houston added a fourth run when second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's grounder in the seventh, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second. It was Castro's second error of the game.

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