Red Sox

How David Price became 'the pitcher Boston signed'

How David Price became 'the pitcher Boston signed'

BOSTON — To understand how David Price has put together an American-League best 1.09 ERA since the All-Star break, you probably have to begin with his mindset. One Red Sox person on Thursday noted the lefty’s environment: the support group around Price, and his improved state of mind compared to a year ago. That’s part one.

Part two, then, is made up of all the mechanical changes and physical adjustments and what he refers to, collectively, as “adjustments.” The list is long, and includes a move on the rubber, his return to the wind-up, and the interplay of his cutter and changeup.

“This is the pitcher Boston signed,” Price said Thursday. “So for me to get back to that, it’s about time.”

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The easiest thing to notice from the numbers available at BrooksBaseball.net is the increased usage in his changeup. He threw it 11 percent of the time in April, and it’s climbed every month since, up to 27 percent of the time in August. Fittingly, he threw 27 changeups out of 101 pitches Thursday at Fenway, en route to eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball against the Indians. He fanned seven and walked none.

Price seemed to rededicate himself to the change (at least in a game setting) in a July 12 start against Toronto, his final start before the All-Star break. He threw it just eight times in a bad outing against the Royals on July 7. Against Toronto the next time out, he tossed a season-high 34.

(Interestingly, Price said on WEEI this week that it was that July 7 start where he felt he turned the corner generally.)

Where had the changeup gone? The reason he used it less frequently prior to July may not have had anything to do with the changeup itself, actually. 

A changeup usually has to work in concert with another pitch. 

“Probably the evolution of the backdoor cutter,” pitching coach Dana LeVangie said Thursday said when asked why Price wasn't using the pitch as much. “Your ability to crisscross multiple movements to the arm side, always having the X-factor. And we saw it big time today. You [throw the] backdoor cutter, you throw a sinker off it. It works beyond … the cutter. Same thing with a changeup. 

“Guys swing at it, before you know it, it’s in the other batter’s box. That’s what pitching is all about.”

Indeed, the cutter makes the changeup better. And he’s having better success executing to the arm side with both pitches because of where he now stands on the rubber. Price is starting his delivery farther toward first base than he did earlier in the season.

“The rubber part, it was something that he wanted to get back to,” LeVangie said. “Because whether it was deception, or the ability to command and dominate to the arm side … just making it a little bit easier, straight line, to get to that spot.”

Said Price on Thursday: “I feel like the thing it’s helped me the most with is my backdoor cutter. If I can continue to throw that pitch the way that I’ve thrown it, it makes everything that much better. Changeups, fastballs away. Threw a four-seam to Melky [Cabrera] in his second at-bat. Didn’t run away from him, and I still got the swing and I got it with two strikes. That’s pretty good off of that back-door cutter. That’s a staple that I had for a very long time, got away from it, and we’ve got it back now.”

Alex Speier of the Globe, Eno Sarris of The Athletic and Jonny Miller of WBZ previously noted the move on the mound.

“It looks like that cutter is starting from our dugout to the outside part of the plate and he's been really, really good about it,” manager Alex Cora said Thursday. “That's actually something we actually talked to Eduardo [Rodriguez] about the other day in Philadelphia, because it's kind of the same movement, same stuff. I think that pitch is becoming a weapon, and he can expand the other way with the changeup. They kind of like, don't recognize the pitch. So that's probably one of the biggest adjustments.”

But wait, there’s more.

Around the start of July is when Price returned to the wind-up. His stretch and his wind-up do not look dramatically different compared to other pitchers, but he nonetheless mostly lived out of the former.

“He’s probably done it for the last six starts or so,” LeVangie said of the wind-up. “Another something new. It gives him rhythm, timing. Gets him back in his delivery. That’s one of his keys. So he made some big-time adjustments that are paying off.”

Why move away from it in the first place? Price, for example, late in the 2016 season scrapped the wind-up, with the idea being he’d be more mechanically sound. 

“It’s not that we got away from it,” LeVangie said. “We wanted to simplify things. Simplify movements. And the way things have gone, hitters have [it easier] timing up wind-up deliveries than they do necessarily stretches. So he wanted to have an influence, both with the big leg kick, side step, in always controlling their timing. Always disrupt their timing.”

Can’t forget his catcher, Sandy Leon, either. Price, like Chris Sale, does not attend the pre-start meeting with the coaches and the catchers, as most pitchers do. Even in the day and age of scouting reports, a relatively empty mind can help allow for focus on the pitch — particularly if the guy behind the plate has a supreme grasp on what to call.

“He puts in the work, he puts in the time,” Price said of Leon. “He now has enough time I feel like in the American League to know all these hitters. You know, he thinks back there. He doesn’t take his at-bats out to the field. He does a really good job.”

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Chris Sale has watched World Series final out "couple hundred thousand times"

Chris Sale has watched World Series final out "couple hundred thousand times"

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Chris Sale is you and you are Chris Sale.

He may even have rewatched the final out of the 2018 World Series more times than you.

"I've watched it maybe a couple hundred thousand times,” Sale said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “It never gets old. Those last, even just watching kind of the highlights from the entire series, it's really special. It's cool. I've worked my entire life and we as a team worked from Day 1 of spring training to get there. And we got it. It was everything you can dream of.”

See it again:

Sale was happy to go down memory lane back to Game 5 of the World Series in Los Angeles. 

“Those were the funnest three outs I've ever gotten,” Sale said. “Being able to come back and share that with the fans obviously, with the parade, but even this weekend here, it's going to be special.

"It's like, all right, you got [a lead of] four runs and three outs to get: Don't trip and don't mess it up. It was really special though. I look at the video, I see a couple still shots of guys in the bullpen [cheering] and it'll give you chills. Like I said, it was the funnest three outs I've ever gotten, and the lead up to that wasn't any less. Plus, warming up in Dodgers Stadium is not the easiest thing to do. So it was awesome. I enjoyed it. Hopefully, we get to do the same thing this year.”

Sale, who says he’s healthy now, has long been adamant that winning was his only goal. Now that he has a championship, his outlook hasn’t changed, unsurprisingly.

“Instead of winning a World Series, I want to win another one,” Sale said. “Nothing changes. My wife asked me that same question: ‘You work your entire life to achieve this goal so what do you do once you achieve it?’ [Shoot], you do it again. It’s why we sign up. You win once and you want to keep winning, and when you don’t win, all you want to do is win. Our goal is to continue to keep winning games and win a couple of those trophies.”

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Bogaerts talked extension; Betts says deals "tough to come up with"

Bogaerts talked extension; Betts says deals "tough to come up with"

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — The mystery player the Red Sox talked to about an extension earlier this offseason was Xander Bogaerts, multiple sources said. The conversations never heated up or brought the sides close to a deal, but the Red Sox and Bogaerts’ agency, Scott Boras’ camp, did engage on the matter.

Bogaerts can become a free agent after this season and quietly had a tremendous year in 2018, one that probably slipped under the radar as Mookie Betts became the MVP and J.D. Martinez had a hit seemingly every night. The shortstop hit .288 with a .360 on-base percentage, .522 slugging percentage and 23 home runs.

Bogaerts and the Sox recently avoided arbitration by settling on a one-year, $12 million contract.

NBC Sports Boston previously reported the Red Sox were talking to a core player about an extension, but it wasn’t clear who. Some in the industry speculated at the time it was Andrew Benintendi, Benintendi said Saturday he hasn’t had talks with the team, and sources have confirmed Bogaerts was, in fact, the player.

Whether the Sox get a deal done with any of their top players remains a matter to watch this winter. Chris Sale confirmed at Winter Weekend that he’s open to an extension.

“My phone is on if they call me,” Sale said. "Obviously, nothing has happened up until this point. If they call, I’d answer.”

The Red Sox are being and have been very forward that they want to keep Mookie Betts, as well as their other stars.

“He’s the exact type of player you want to have on your team, not just from what he does on the field but off the field,” Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “He’s such a great person and we’d love to have him be a Red Sox for his entire career. Certainly understand, you try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, he’s going to want to see what the market looks like and understand that. But we’ve made it crystal clear that we want him a part of the Red Sox organization long term. 

“I don’t know why a player would ever want to play anywhere else other than Boston. That comes from a very biased person. I’m a Bostonian. But you look around at the fan support, you look at this ownership group. The commitment to winning, the great history and tradition. Talk to a lot of alums who have been here and gone other places. And I just, I think a lot of ‘em wish they had stayed in Boston and finished their careers here. We’re now approaching a 20-year run of an era in Boston sports unlike any other in the history of professional sports. This is where you want to be.”

Said Bogaerts on the outlook from here: "I mean, always if both sides can get to an agreement to a point...I don't see no wrong with that. But I mean if the price is right, I guess, for both sides, I think it's always fair enough for anyone who's open to talk."

As for Betts, the reality may be simple: get to the market, and see what’s out there, or maybe take a deal from the Red Sox if it appears to be equivalent to what he would get on the open market. At this point, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both unsigned, it’s hard to know exactly how high Betts value could go when he's a free agent after the 2020 season.

“Contract things are kind of tough to come up with, especially with both sides and kind of how the economics and all those things work,” Betts said Saturday. “I love Boston, love my teammates, love the fans and all those types of things, so we’ll just continue to see what happens.”

Betts made clear he knows how free agency appears to be unfolding, but at the same time, said nothing that indicates he wants to avoid it, or that he thinks it’s anything other than his best route.

“It’s not just those two, there’s a lot of good guys still out there that haven’t signed,” Betts said. “Kind of cross that bridge as we come to it. There’s a lot of good guys that are unsigned, and there shouldn’t be.”

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has said he prefers to get extensions before the regular season, be it in the offseason or spring training. Asked if he sees talks with the Sox coming soon, Betts said he lets his agents handle it.

Sox owner John Henry noted on Friday that extensions for younger players seem less prevalent these days.

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