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The David Price Redemption Tour Kicked Off In Tampa, As Alex Cora Notched His First Win As Red Sox Manager

MLB: MAR 30 Red Sox at Rays

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Let me take you back to the summer of 2014 real quick. The Red Sox, coming to the realization that the 2013 magic had run dry, traded their ace Jon Lester to the Oakland A’s in exchange for star slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Upon his arrival, it was becoming increasingly clear that Cespedes, who was set to become a free agent after the 2015 season, was not interested in signing a contract extension with Boston. Having this information in hand, Boston flipped one year of Cespedes to the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello, and before ever throwing a pitch for the Red Sox, signed him to a four-year extension prior to the 2015 season.

That 2015 rotation featured Porcello, who had an abysmal year due to injury, Clay Buchholz, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, and, at times, Henry Owens. Just three years later, Masterson is out of baseball, both Miley and Buchholz had to sign minor league deals to secure jobs this season, Kelly has since been moved to the bullpen, Owens demoted to Double-A before being lost to waivers for nothing, and Rodriguez is still here, albeit on the disabled list to start the year.

The Red Sox needed an ace. In his first full season, Dave Dombrowski knew that, as did everyone else, so he signed the best free agent pitcher on the open market, David Price, the man who did not cost the Red Sox a draft pick, the man who had virtually no injury history, the man who had spectacular numbers at Fenway Park, and the man who had spent a majority of his career pitching in the AL East with a Cy Young award in his trophy case.

The thing is, Price was headed to St. Louis to join the Cardinals on a very lucrative deal. Again, knowing that the Red Sox needed an ace — emphasis on the needed part — Dombrowski made Price an offer that he couldn’t refuse, and with that, the former first-round, first overall pick was at an introductory press conference at Fenway Park shortly after.

Seven years and $217 million, a contract that not many pitchers in Major League Baseball could possibly live up to. But Price was Dombrowski’s guy, as he should’ve been. After two consecutive last place seasons, trotting Buchholz out as your Opening Day starter for two consecutive seasons was a fireable offense. Possibly even the death penalty. Thus, Price had arrived in Boston and the hot takes started flowing before the snow even had a chance to melt. Can he handle Boston? Can he handle the pressure? Can he handle the media? Can he handle the fans? Can he overcome his postseason demons?

His first season in Boston fell short of expectations due to a shitty start and a poor finish. That, and the expectations of a pitcher making $30 million a season is somewhere along the lines of win every single start or you’re a bum. After seven starts, Price’s ERA jumped to 6.75, an awful first impression. Over his next 24 starts, Price pitched to a 3.07 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 164.1 innings. In his last four starts to conclude the regular season, he allowed 15 earned runs in 24.1 innings and then laid an egg in his lone postseason start. Lost in that narrative is that Price’s late season slide in 2016 began when his best friend passed away unexpectedly, although that “excuse” fell on deaf ears in Boston.

Last year, Price experienced elbow problems during spring training and nearly ended up on an operating table, effectively ending his season and perhaps part of this season. Thankfully, he avoided that scenario, made 11 starts with a 3.82 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 66 innings, and then poof! He was gone, and the rest of his season was in limbo. Price would return two months later, this time out of the bullpen, and logged 8.2 scoreless innings over five appearances with 13 strikeouts. He would carry that scoreless streak into the postseason, not allowing a run in 6.2 innings of work over two appearances with 6 strikeouts.

But the Red Sox didn’t sign Price to be a dominant reliever, did they? Enter: The 2018 season — Price’s redemption tour. After a shitshow start to their season in Tampa on Thursday, Price made his season debut, his first start since July 22 of last year, against the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2007, while standing on the rubber in the ballpark that he called home for parts of seven seasons.

Price held the Rays scoreless for seven frames, punching out five batters, and exited the game at 76 pitches. It was a surprising move for sure, especially considering it was a one-run game and runs were scarce across the board, but we’re gonna have to go ahead and trust the process here. There was no injury or threat of injury. Sounds like the Red Sox are playing it safe with the left-hander with the big picture in mind, so they’re gonna take their seven scoreless and see what the bullpen can do after a disaster of a performance in the season opener.

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Matt Barnes held down the eighth, and Craig Kimbrel punched out the side in the ninth, so the one run that Rafael Devers drove in back in the seventh held up. It was win number one for the Red Sox, it was win number one for Alex Cora as a big league manager, but it was also win number one for David Price, who has everything to prove in 2018. Most rationally and logically thinking Red Sox fans know how good Price has been and still can be (I think), but until they see it with their own two eyes, the jury is going to remain out. Price knows that, and that’s why this season is pivotal for him.

And the story will remain the same. Price can go on to win the Cy Young award again this year, and all of that will have meant nothing if he doesn’t win in the postseason. But for now, it’s one step at a time, and step one was to do what he did in Tampa on Friday night.

Final score: Red Sox 1, Rays 0