Red Sox

Red Sox

The Red Sox made David Price the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history to take the ball every Opening Day, and, they hope, Game 1 of many post-season series to come.

But part of being an ace is the impact Price can have on others in the rotatiton and his effect on the club on days in which he's not pitching. And Price is ready to embrace that part of the job title, too.

"I want to pitch deep into ballgames,'' said Price in his introductory press conference. "That's something I take a lot of pride in. I want to try to give the bullpen a day off. When I'm not pitching, I want to be there for not only all my other teammates, but all the other pitchers.

"I'm a guy that likes to watch bullpens. If you want to ask me anything about grips, or how I approach hitters. I want to be there for my teammates. I will be there for my teammates. That's what an ace is. You're going to shy away from the big game. You want the ball and I want to be a leader.''

There's a confidence that comes from having a true No. 1 head your rotation, and it can carry over to the rest of the starters.

"When you add a guy like David,'' said Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, "it really changes the look of your staff. I think it's extremely important to add a No. 1 starter if you can - not only from an ability perspective, but what it does for your staff. It takes the pressure off of some of the (other starters).  It allows your manager to count on that guy to give innings and you can work your bullpen differently on other days if you have that person.

 

"A lot of times, the other pitchers in the rotation follow suit. And I'm a strong believer in character. (When we were in Detroit together), I had more than one person tell me, from a player perspective and a staff perspective, that he was the best teammate they ever had.''

The 2015 Red Sox didn't have a staff leader, and paid for it dearly, finishing the year with the 24th-ranked ERA for starters. Some veterans (Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly) underperformed. Some were injured for long stretches (Clay Buchholz). And others (Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens) were mere rookies.

"Clearly, we didn't have someone of David's caliber at this point in time,'' noted GM Mike Hazen. "So that's what pointed us in this direction, to go and get somebody that was really going to anchor that staff and really lead that group
of guys going forward.''

Starting next season, manager John Farrell will have a bonafide front-of-the- rotation starter from the beginning of the season and expects the entire staff to benefit.

"He comes in with this label,'' said Farrell, "and it allows everybody else in the rotation to have someone to look up to. Maybe there's a confidence that others can take from his presence.''

And, for Farrell, there's the knowledge that, when Price is the next day's starter, the manager can empty the bullpen, knowing that Price is likely going to go deep into the next game.

"You can be a little bit more aggressive,'' said Farrell.

What's more, younger, less experienced starters like Rodriguez and Owens can learn just from being around him.

"They're going to have the ability to listen to what David has to say and apply it, (especially because they're both lefthanded),'' said Farrell. "But I wouldn't limit to just those two. This is someone who's got experience, the way he conducts himself, the way he interracts with his teammates - all are going to benefit from David.''

Beyond the younger pitchers, even more established pitchers like Porcello - who seemed to press to justify his new contact extension -- can also benefit by Price's benefit. Instead of feeling the pressures of having to be the No. 1 or No. 2 starter, Porcello
can take his turn and simply pitch.

"They were teammates already (in Detroit),'' said Farrell. "There's a comfort level there between the two. Maybe because he's so conscious, he tried to do  too much. But in this case, with all eyes on David Price, it takes some of the pressure off Rick and allows him to be himself and just pitch to his abilities.''