It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to think about postseason baseball with all the hype around the New England Patriots and Boston Celtics.
But here we are just weeks away from the end of the regular season with the Boston Red Sox atop the American League East – and they’re doing it without starting pitcher David Price, who has been on disabled list since July with an elbow injury.
Unless something terribly drastic happens between now and the end of September, the Red Sox will be in the playoffs and there will be a lot of questions surrounding the starting pitching.
Let this sink in for a minute: Doug Fister is the only current Red Sox starting pitcher to win a playoff start.
We know how Price is in the playoffs. We saw Rick Porcello pitch inspiringly in the playoffs last year. And Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez have never started a playoff game.
The Red Sox have shown they don’t exactly need Price at the moment to achieve first-place status. And time is ticking before the playoffs are here and a roster needs to be set.
So where does Price belong? In the starting rotation? In the bullpen? Off the roster?
Red Sox skipper John Farrell stated he was considering moving Price to the bullpen for the postseason. But can you really put a $217 million starting pitcher there?
For the most part, the starting pitchers have been pitching well. It’s the offense that needs to produce more for their starters. Plus, Price has been dealing with a less-than-healthy elbow all season – even since Spring Training.
Price missed the first 49 games of the season, had an absolute meltdown over some Dennis Eckersley criticism — that turned into him essentially bullying the Hall of Famer — and then went on the disabled list and has yet to see game action since then.
Recently, Price has been playing long-toss and throwing off a mound in consecutive days, which is encouraging considering he was shut down for a few days after throwing long-toss a few weeks ago.
But the bullpen does indeed make the most sense for Price going into the postseason. He’s won two playoff games – both coming when he came in as a reliever.
So Red Sox Nation knows he’s capable of winning a playoff game — when he doesn’t start.
Coming out of the bullpen will also limit the amount of pitches Price throws in a game,. This should help keep his elbow strong and not wear it out.
The Sox had their best month of the season in August, and that momentum should carry over into September to finish off this season strong.
The best part about their strong August?
It was carried by strong pitching from the starters and bullpen.
The best part about September?
Their schedule is fairly easy with matchups against their AL opponents the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, with Tampa and Toronto being the two worst teams in the division.
They have what could be an extremely important series at the end of the month against the Houston Astros. If both teams have clinched playoff spots, they could be battling for home field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
They have a series against the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds, both on the road and both are not playoff teams. Both series should be easy for the Sox to take care of.
All in all, expect the Sox to close out September and the regular season as strong, if not stronger, than how they closed out August. Expect utility man Eduardo Nunez and third baseman Rafael Devers to continue to be forces for this team and expect Price to be a bullpen guy in the postseason.
TWIW Prediction: Boston will close out the season with around 94 wins and an AL East title before making their way to the World Series for the first time since they won it all in 2013.
And they’ll do all of this without David Price being in the starting rotation. They’ll do it on the backs of 23-year-old left fielder Andrew Benintendi, 20-year-old Devers and with the veteran presence of Dustin Pedroia.