Red Sox

Drellich: Red Sox season hinges on new father Price

Drellich: Red Sox season hinges on new father Price


OAKLAND — The calamities of Hector Velazquez and Kyle Kendrick return us to the big picture, which has been unchanged since spring training.

The 2017 Red Sox season hinges on David Price.

Depth and roster building are all concerns for the Red Sox. They need better back-end starters, which is the responsibility of the front office. But if you start ignoring the margins and the smaller-value choices, the concept is simple. It always has been. 

The Sox lost David Ortiz, they added Chris Sale, and then they lost Price. Those are huge pieces, players worth four or five wins above replacement in a full season.

Forget the Velazquezs of the world. Forget the trade market, where the Sox will have to be active but are restricted by three things: their own prospect pool, the fact they'll probably have multiple needs and the luxury-tax threshold.

There's no one like Price coming from the outside.

“David Price is elite,” Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said Thursday night. “And you know he’s been that way for a long time. He had a very good year for us last year (17-9, 3.99 ERA). And if we get that guy back, we’re getting a front-line, elite-caliber starter. Those guys are hard to find. 

“You insert him in a rotation that has Chris Sale, has Rick Porcello, Eddie Rodriguez coming [along], which he is. It’s a huge difference-maker. And it’s a huge difference-maker for the bullpen as well.”

On Friday, the lefty is slated to make his first minor league rehab start as he comes back from an elbow injury. It’s an outing loaded with symbolism shortly after the birth of his first child. Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, one of Price’s great friends, tweeted on Friday morning that Price and wife Tiffany welcomed a baby boy, Xavier. Price confirmed the news in a tweet later on Friday. (It's unclear what day Xavier was born.)

With still many hours to go before Friday's game with Triple-A Pawtucket in Buffalo, there was no indication Price’s status for the start had changed. (Of course, it could before first pitch.)

The motivation for Price may skyrocket even further now, the story and reward of his potential return multitudes sweeter.

A year prior to Velazquez’s major league debut Thursday night, Price made his second start of the 2016 season for the Sox. Or more accurately, his second start in the stretch that was representative of how good he can be and, in fact, was last year.

He allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings vs. the defending world-champion Royals last May 18. From May 12 last year through the end of the regular season, Price had a 3.39 ERA in 188 2/3 innings pitched. 

X-factors are generally silly ideas because they assume a lot else goes right. With Price, let’s make that assumption. Let’s presume that Sale stays healthy and so does Dustin Pedroia.

The Sox will still be decent, still have a chance if Price doesn’t make it back healthy, or if he's ineffective. As bad as third base has been, there have been gains elsewhere. Steven Wright is gone for the season, but look at Joe Kelly's progress in the bullpen. Maybe Rafael Devers has two great months to finish the year.

But it’s all kind of minor by comparison when talking about what the Sox can do differently from here. The difference between the middling performance the Sox are showing now and something greater is Price.

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

yankees_aaron_judge_catch_101617.jpg

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia help Yankees beat Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK - Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and a made pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting New York's deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

Sabathia allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer for the Yankees, who stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 Wednesday on 11 days' rest, likely against Brad Peacock or Lance McCullers Jr.

Back in the Bronx after a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings. Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

MORE:

The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE