Baseball is full of surprises, always delivering something no one could have forecast.
Case in point? As the first month of the 2016 season comes to a close, did anyone predict David Price would come to be seen as a question mark in the Red Sox rotation?
Price signed a seven-year, $217 million contract prescisely so that he could stabilize the Boston rotation. He was obtained to answer questions, not create them.
But through his first four starts, Price has had mixed results. There was one decent start (Opening Day), one superb start (April 16 against Toronto) and two very disconcerting ones -- the home opener against Baltimore and his last one, against Tampa Bay.
The man who was supposed to provide innings has failed to get through the fourth in one outing and pitched only five in another.
This has led to some wild overraction. Price can't stand the pressure of Boston! He can't pitch in Fenway!
Never mind that over the course of his career, Price has a 7-1 record with a 3.11 ERA in 14 starts at Fenway Park (including two as a member of the Red Sox). Or that, for most of his career, he's pitched in the A.L. East with great success (in the division, he's 50-21 against the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays and Yankees).
Four starts in, panic has set in.
And after allowing a career-worst eight runs against the Rays last Thursday afternoon, Price understands the angst. In fact, he's been eager to make amends since he last walked off the Fenway mound.
"I just didn’t throw the baseball very well,'' Price confessed to reporters Monday, "and that stinks because I felt very good four days ago in Boston. I just want to go out there and go after hitters, pitch deep into the baseball game and give us a chance to win.''
That was the idea when the Red Sox lavished the biggest contract in franchise history on him. He would be the ace they so sorely lacked last season. He would be solid rock in the uncertainty of the rotation.
It hasn't worked out that way. Price has been outpitched by both Rick Porcello and -- unlikeliest of all -- Steven Wright.
Porcello has pitched into the seventh inning in all four of his starts and the Red Sox have won each of them. Wright, meanwhile, has three quality starts in three tries. With even a modicum of run support, he'd be 3-0.
Price maintains that it's been solely about execution for him, and there's evidence to support that. He's struck out 32 in 21 1/3 innings and walked just six, proof that the stuff is still elite.
But too many times, Price hasn't made the pitch he needed to in a big spot.
That shouldn't be cause for concern ordinarily, but, expectations being what they are, Price finds himself under the microscope.
Drawing the Braves an an opponent Tuesday night might be the perfect antidote. Atlanta may be the worst team in the National League, and in a season in which a handful of teams in that league aren't trying to win, that's saying something.
The Braves hasn't hit a homer in 14 games, which should come as some relief to a pitcher who's allowed three in four starts.
The bottom half of their lineup is an offensive sinkhole. Then again, Price executed a faceplant last week against the Rays, a team which may have the weakest lineup in the American League, so there's no such thing as a lock.
Still, the conditions would seem in line for a turnaround for Price.
It's just not what he expected to face, five starts into his Red Sox career.