Red Sox

McAdam: Reality of Ortiz's final game staring Red Sox in the face


McAdam: Reality of Ortiz's final game staring Red Sox in the face

It's bad enough for the Red Sox that their season now hangs in the balance, one loss away from the prospect of a brief fall turning into a long winter.

That's daunting enough for a team which, only a week ago, might have been considered the prohibitive favorite to emerge from the American League playoff scramble.

But the specter of the season ending carries with it an equally ominous event for the Sox: beyond the threat of the final Red Sox game of 2016 is the corresponding notion that one more loss will represent the final game of David Ortiz's career. Ever.

The speed with which that prospect has arrived could not have foreseen a week ago.

Last weekend, as Ortiz took a series of bows as part of his final regular season games, there was the knowledge that the entire postseason still lay ahead.

Surely, there would be a deep run, with potentially, another visit to the World Series and a chance at a fourth ring for Ortiz. And within that run sat the possibility one at least one more iconic moment with Ortiz winning one more October game in dramatic fashion.

All of that seemed safely off in the distance on the final weekend of the season, like an abstract concept. Now's, it's very real, and thanks to the Red Sox stumbles at Progressive Field in the first two games of the Division Series, very real.

"We knew this was coming from the time that David announced this would be his final season,'' said John Farrell. "I don't think this has been a distraction for us at any point this season, and certainly isn't (Sunday). It's pretty clear-cut what we need to do.

"The most important thing for us is (Sunday); nothing beyond. I'm confident that our focus is solely in that direction.''

And it's not just Sunday that looms. Because the Red Sox are facing elimination games for the rest of the series, it will remain for the next few days.

Should the Sox win Sunday and remain alive, the prospect of Ortiz's final game will re-occur Monday. And should they win that one, the same scenario would be in place for Game 5 Wednesday in Cleveland.

That's the thing about the postseason: there are no guarantees. You can look ahead to potential matchups in the LCS or World Series, but those aren't promised; they have to be earned.

Through the first two games of the Division Series, the Red Sox have earned little beyond scorn. They haven't hit enough, and they certainly haven't pitched well. They've made physical and mental errors in the field.

In short, they've looked nothing like the team that imposed its will on the rest of the division with a September run that saw them pull away from the pack and clinch the East.

That includes Ortiz, whose sole highlight to date has been an eighth-inning double that was more noteworthy for his burst of speed from first to second than it was for its impact (he left the game for pinch-runner Marco Hernandez, who was stranded).

"David's final game is going to come,'' said Farrell. "When that is, hopefully it's beyond (Sunday).''

On his way out of the clubhouse Saturday, Ortiz was asked about his mental state and the knowledge that when he reports to Fenway Sunday, it could be for the last time.

"I haven't thought about it,'' insisted Ortiz, before breaking into a smile. "Not yet.''

For now, the unknown is what makes all of this different. For as long as everyone has had to prepare for this eventuality, the notion that it could come as Sunday is a cold slap of reality.


Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

David Price's Grapefruit League debut was nearly perfect.

The Red Sox left-hander pitched four scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out five in a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Fla.

Price threw 55 pitches, 34 for strikes. He cruised through the first on nine pitches. He allowed the single and walk in the second.  

"It feels good. This is March 15 and I've never been able to have a four-pitch mix on March 15," Price told reporters after his start. "I've never been this far along in spring training even though I've only thrown in one game. I'm excited about that."

The Red Sox open March 29 at Tampa Bay, with Chris Sale likely to start. Price will likely pitch the second game of the season, March 30 at Tropicana Field.