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."

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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