Red Sox

Rotation or relief for Price? 'I just want to pitch'

Rotation or relief for Price? 'I just want to pitch'

BOSTON — The pitcher sounds like he wants to go the distance, the manager sounds like he has a different idea. The age-old decision is about to play out in an unusual way: David Price’s potential role with the Red Sox for the start of the postseason. 

Does the skipper or the pitcher make the call? In this case, it won't be so black and white, because health is a hazy question.

Price and Red Sox manager John Farrell are to discuss the plan for Price on Thursday, a day after Price threw three innings with inning breaks at Fenway Park. Price faced Chris Young, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin in his second sim game on the way back from an arm injury. 

The way Price sounded on Wednesday, he wants to start and he wants to move into major league action right away. That’s precisely what you’d expect to hear.

“I don’t know how many days we have left and how many games,” Price said when asked if he feels he can start. “Threw 40-some odd pitches today. Felt good. Felt strong at the end. So, it’s not the decision I’ll be making.

“I just want to pitch. Whatever it is, that’s fine.”

Time is indeed the biggest problem, although it is not the only consideration. 

The Red Sox have 18 games left. There is no intermediary step available to the Red Sox for Price to build up his pitch count outside of a major league game or another sim game. The minor league season is in its final days.

Price’s next outing, therefore, could be in the majors.

“I don’t know how many more times I have to do a live B.P., but if I come in tomorrow and feel fine, I don’t know what else I can do,” Price said when asked about his confidence he can be ready for the playoffs.

But here’s the thing: if Price wants to start, he’s going to need another sim game, at least as Farrell saw it Wednesday.

Farrell’s inclination, however, appears to have Price in relief.

“You’re looking at at least one more sim game,” Farrell said of starting. “That would be the need at a minimum. It is September. You’ve got guys that can build in innings behind him with a progression if you were to choose to do that. It would be aggressive to bring him back as a starter right now, in my mind.”

Price’s health, Farrell said, is the most important factor.

“Get him back to a certain level as far as game condition, game activity, is one,” Farrell said. “Then, what is he physically built up and the duration enable him to do?”

Determining what provides greater stress for Price, a relief or starting role, is not straightforward. There’s a familiarity factor to consider. 

The last time he pitched in relief was in the 2015 American League Division Series, with three runs allowed in three innings for the Blue Jays in Game 4 vs. the Rangers. He’s pitched in relief 11 times in his career between the regular season and postseason.

The pitch counts would be lesser in relief. Frequency of pitches would not be. Stress would be high either way. He’s comfortable pitching out of the stretch full-time.

“It’s always fatigue-related. So when does the fatigue show up? Is it late in the game after 100-plus pitches, or is it after frequent use?” Farrell said. “As it relates to David, I don’t have that exact answer. I do know this, what he’s showing us right now is all positive.”

That answer is an important one to figure out. But it’s not a sole factor.

The appeal of having Price — or simply, an effective starter — in the bullpen during the playoffs is easy to see. 

“I think what we’ve seen in past postseasons is that there’s a pitcher, whoever that pitcher has become, there’s been a multi-inning pitcher in there that has made major contributions,” Farrell said. “[In 2013] it was [Felix] Doubront. Prior to that I’m sure there were other guys who came out of the bullpen after they started or they had innings under their belt and contributed, whether it was Derek Lowe from years past, situations like that are not uncommon. But I don’t want to paint him as a reliever after today’s work.”

If rust is a concern for Price either way in a playoff setting, the idea he would be less risky in relief — in an impactful late-inning situation — is hard to buy. Pulling him out in the seventh inning may be easier on the relievers coming in behind him, as opposed to being yanked in the second inning. But that’s a contingency the Sox could plan for.

If Price’s arm can handle starting, it’s hard to look at the Sox’ rotation at present and see that there are four pitchers who deserve a spot while he does not. He was unsure of his velocity Wednesday, but he looked strong and the talk around him continues to be strong.

There doesn’t seem to be a great reason in the public arena right now preventing Price from making a trial start, so to speak.

"In September, it’s different just because we’re not taxing a bullpen [because of expanded rosters],” Farrell said when asked how many innings Price would need to be built up to for a start to be made. “We have the ability to cover the innings, so you could say that the progression would be to activate him and put him in a game at three innings and you continue to build that out. That’s one scenario. But again, these are things we have to sit down and discuss and determine what’s best for him."

Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

red-sox-tyler-thornburg-032817x.jpg

Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is he had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator-cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole-body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

cp-red-sox-kimbrel-100917.jpg

Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

MORE RED SOX:

“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE