HOUSTON — Red Sox manager John Farrell on Friday cracked the door to the potential for a David Price start later in this series. The Sox have some reason to kick themselves for not having already gone down that road, because it may be the only bold maneuver that might have greatly impacted Game 2’s 8-2 loss to the Astros.
Price threw 38 pitches and 2 2/3 innings of one-hit ball out of the bullpen in Friday’s 8-2 loss, keeping a 4-1 deficit where it was. His time on the mound was the best chance the Sox had. The Sox could have started Price in Game 2 and then followed with Drew Pomeranz, rather than vice versa. Pomeranz pitched two-plus innings and allowed four runs.
The early holes the Sox have found themselves in are trying.
"We got to hopefully try to score first," Xander Bogaerts said Friday. "I feel like these guys always score before us, and we’re kind of in a hole right away. And especially on the road, we start hitting first and we have a chance to score first and it just hasn’t happened."
Asked after Friday’s game if Price could start later in this DS, Farrell did not rule out the possibility, but said that won't happen in Game 3 on Sunday, when Doug Fister has the ball.
“It wouldn't be on Sunday,” Farrell said. “I think that what we're seeing is 40 pitches is about the comfort zone which he's been built out at. He's throwing the ball very well. He comes in with his back against the wall in a key spot, gets two big outs to end the threat, he's throwing the ball very, very well. Cutter to both sides of the plate, has shown a feel for a changeup, full assortment of pitches that he typically has, he's done a very good job.”
The trouble is that every game the Sox have this series now is an elimination game, and staying away from Price in relief will be difficult. Farrell said he expects Price will be available in relief on Sunday.
“The way he's bounced back, I would anticipate he would be ready or available,” Farrell said. “But we’ll check and see how we get through tomorrow's workout and how he bounces back. But that would be my anticipation at this point.”
Likely, 38 pitches is asking too much for Price to repeat Sunday on just one day’s rest, which is why Price probably couldn’t start Sunday — but could nonetheless be available in relief.
The logical point does exist though: if a guy can pitch in relief, why couldn't he start, even if it's brief?
The Sox put Price in the 'pen because they felt it would better benefit his health. They were aggressive with Eduardo Nunez, and took criticism for doing so, so it's hard to fault them when they're in turn conservative with health situations.
"If fatigue is the precursor to injury, at least you have the ability to control that more so in this role, just by virtue of not pitching him if there’s been frequent use vs. that 90 to 115 pitch range where, is that when things start to expose him or expose him to a greater risk," Farrell said five days ago. "Yeah, you can make the argument that if you control the frequency of use, maybe they are less susceptible to injury. The one thing that we’ve been very clear on, when we’ve warmed him up, we’ve gotten him in a game. So, I think that’s sometimes traditional … Bringing a guy out of the bullpen traditionally, sometimes a starter may not want that. But when it’s him, because of the conditions he’s come in under, they have to understand, once he warms up, he’s in the game. So, that’s where we are with David.”
None of that precludes a start of 40 pitches, or even fewer, however.
If Price could go unused in a Sox win on Sunday, perhaps a Game 4 or Game 5 start becomes viable, if just for two or three innings. And that could be perhaps the tone-setting difference that could give the Red Sox some tiny sliver of hope.