Red Sox

Drellich: All we are saying is give Price a chance

Drellich: All we are saying is give Price a chance

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Give David Price the benefit of the doubt, if you happen to doubt him. Afford him the chance to follow through. 

The Red Sox lefty arrived in a position of greater leadership last season, the first without David Ortiz. The messiness that ensued has been well documented. 

On Tuesday morning at JetBlue Park, he said he’ll handle that job differently going forward. 

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“I feel like I’ve always been one to lead with my actions, and I didn’t do that very well last year,” Price said. “And I know that and understand that, and I look forward to getting back and being that faucet and not being a drain.”

There’s a significant admission in that metaphor, one he’s used before. In a 2015 tweet, Price wrote:

What Price acknowledged Tuesday is that he acted in a way that is antithetical to his being. It's a notable mea culpa from a player in a position of power.

"I could've handled it better last year, absolutely, but I didn't, and I've moved on," Price said in a 17-minute talk with a large group of media. "I look forward to getting back this year and getting off on the right foot."

Price’s pitching in Boston has always been excellent when healthy, outside of the first seven starts of his Red Sox career. That first impression left a sour taste for some fans and some media -- certainly not for all -- and also inflated his 2016 ERA to 3.99.

But he was a major reason the Sox won the division in 2016. He had a poor start in the playoffs that year, but he was hardly the reason the Sox lost the Division Series to Cleveland. On the other hand, his bullpen dominance was the reason the Sox even had a chance in last year's DS against Houston.

He’s dominant if he’s able to take the mound. That hasn’t changed in Boston.

The scrutiny is what changed, as everyone knows. But people can grow and adapt, and what Price put forth on Tuesday was a calm message that in itself suggested growth.

Winters in baseball are meant for reflection and healing. Spring, now, is meant for opportunity.

“Relaxed, family,” Price said of how he was able to recharge. “That was the first offseason being a father, so that was -- it’s different, to say the least. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of, so it’s been good."

There’s no telling whether Price will indeed back up his words. The ball's in his court, the chance all his. But he should be given that chance in the court of public opinion, because one messy season a seven-year contract does not make.

Price has some help. New manager Alex Cora seems to be making inroads, and we can infer Cora is connecting with Price in a way that John Farrell did not.

“It's casual conversation,” Price said. “It’s not always about baseball, and I think that's good. We have a good relationship already, and that's talking more than just baseball.”

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Price is taking a matter-of-fact approach to fans and Boston: He'll be loved if he wins.

There still exists a natural, inherent conflict between Price and the media, and Price touched on it briefly Tuesday. 

In the middle of last year, Price stopped talking to most Boston media members individually. Price said on Tuesday that such interviews could start again this season, with a caveat.

“We can talk,” Price said. “But you're not going to come over and overload me with negativity. It's not going to happen. That's not going to happen.”

What defines overloading him with negativity? Reporting involves asking negative questions, and those do undoubtedly go overboard sometimes.

It’s almost a guarantee, at some point, Price will face an interview he does not like, with a reporter he deems in that moment -- rightly or wrongly -- to be a drain. 

The question is how he handles that moment. He has every right to end an interview. Would he do so in a way reflective of his commitment to the new form of leadership he spoke of Tuesday? 

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Price has contradicted himself in the past. He declared he was at peace last season at a time when he clearly was not . . . just before he began to take on the media, for example.

A year from now, we’ll better know if Price really meant what he said Tuesday. He can opt out of his contract after this season. Price was asked if he has any doubt as to whether he’d return to Boston next year. 

“No. There's not,” Price said. “I came here to win. I knew how tough it was to play here and pitch here. If you can go out there and win, I know all the emotions and everything's going to be better in that positive light. I look forward to doing that."

Everyone should look forward to seeing him do that, as well.

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Many questions for, but few answers from, John Henry

john_henry.jpg
File photo

Many questions for, but few answers from, John Henry

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox owner John Henry did not want to discuss the team’s effort to rename Yawkey Way or the club’s feelings about its flagship radio station, WEEI.

Henry, who speaks to the media annually at the start of spring training but at few other times, deferred to past comments he and Sox president Sam Kennedy have made.

WEEI employees on Friday underwent sensitivity training. Kennedy last week spoke to the Herald about the team’s growing concern over offensive comments made by WEEI hosts, comments that have led to suspensions. 

(Full discloure: this columnist works part-time at WEEI.)

On Monday, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe — which is owned by Henry — raised the question about Yawkey Way.

SHAUGHNESSY: “John could you explain to fans your objection to Yawkey Way street name?”

HENRY: “I think I’ve already, I’ve already covered that.”

SHAUGHNESSY: “I don’t remember you ever talking about it.”

HENRY: “I was quoted in the other newspaper.”

(Some laugh)

SHAUGHNESSY: “Can you share for all of us what your objections are?”

HENRY: “What my objections are? No, I’d rather talk about baseball and spring training.”

SHAUGHNESSY: “This is the only chance we talk to you. Is that something that’s actively, you’re, the club is engaged in?”

HENRY: “It is something that the club’s engaged in."

JONNY MILLER, WBZ RADIO: “The team took an active approach in the Adam Jones situation [as well as Yawkey Way] . . . Are you at all embarrassed by what’s going on in your flagship station, WEEI, and are you going to address the matter in any way?”

HENRY: “Am I going to address the matter? I think we have addressed the matter.”

MILLER: “In what way?”

HENRY: “I think Sam has talked about it.”

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Drellich: Here's how Kimbrel could greatly help Cora

Drellich: Here's how Kimbrel could greatly help Cora

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- An amenable Craig Kimbrel can be quite an amenity.

On the day he was introduced at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he sometimes will want to use his closer outside of the ninth inning. More and more, it's accepted around the game that the most crucial situations for a bullpen may come in the eighth inning or even the seventh, not the ninth.

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Kimbrel was asked at Winter Weekend in January how he felt about the idea. His answer was open-minded. At the same time, he made clear he would need communication on the matter and that it was to be talked about. In other words, Kimbrel was saying he wanted to maintain some say in the matter. He didn't cede all control over the situation to the new manager.

The topic has again arisen this spring, and here's guessing they reach an understanding. It's important they do. The situation can have reverberations beyond just the bullpen. We know what Cora wants. Seeing Kimbrel embrace Cora's objective will do wonders for a first-year manager who needs a level of respect in the room. Conversely, if Kimbrel is obstinate, Cora in turn can look poorly.

There may be an adjustment to Kimbrel's routine, if he's pitching in the eighth more often. But there really doesn't need to be additional wear and tear. He can be used in the eighth instead of the ninth -- three outs, just like any other day. He'd do more for his team, just without recording a statistical save.

"We'll sit down with him throughout spring training," Cora said Saturday of Kimbrel. "People think it's a big adjustment. If you start looking at the numbers, you don't lose too many saves if it's the way you want to use him. We're not talking about the lower third of the lineup. We're talking the middle of the lineup, eighth inning, certain situations. What I feel is the game on the line . . . We'll sit down and talk about it and he'll understand where we're coming from. And as long as he's healthy he'll do it."

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That's how it sounds from Kimbrel's end now as well. And out-of-the-gate cooperation from a dominant player, the leader in the bullpen, will go a long way for Cora. Managers generally face a near constant stream of fleeting unhappiness from pitchers. Every day, someone gets pulled when they don't think they should be. A tacit vote of confidence in how Cora wants to use the ‘pen from Kimbrel is a valuable tool for not only winning games, but establishing Cora's presence.

Saves have for so long defined closers.

"It's a pretty stat but at the end of the day it's about winning and losing games," Kimbrel said. 

Kimbrel is entering his walk year and turns 30 in May. He's racked up a huge amount of saves, 291, early in his career. Mariano Rivera, who had a relatively late start to his career, had just 129 saves through his age-29 season. Trevor Hoffman had just 135. Kimbrel's strength lies in his tremendous velocity, so he may not be set up to perform as well later into his career as Hoffman and Rivera did, but he also could adjust when, eventually, his velocity drops.

All put together, it's not impossible that Kimbrel could make a run at the all-time saves record. But if he's going to be truly the best reliever possible, he'll embrace that some of his saves won't be credited as such.

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