Playoff X-factor? Red Sox activate David Price, plan to use him as an ace reliever
We've seen what strong, multi-inning relievers can do in the playoffs in recent years
The Red Sox announced Thursday morning in a bit of a surprise move that they were activating lefty starter David Price from the disabled list. In an even bigger twist, they announced that he would be used the rest of this season as a multi-inning reliever.
Price, 32, started the season on the disabled list due to an elbow injury and has been on the shelf with the same issue since his last start, which came on July 22. He looked great in his three outings leading up to that late July outing, when he coughed up five earned runs in five innings.
With just a few weeks left in the season, the Red Sox obviously saw the writing on the wall that Price just wasn't going to be fit to rejoin the rotation. They say he feels good enough physically to relieve, however, so why not give it a shot?
We've seen for several years now what the lock-down, multi-inning reliever can do for a team in the playoffs and it came to national fanfare with Andrew Miller taking over the AL playoffs in 2016. One difference is the Red Sox want to start innings with Price instead of bringing him into a jam.
"With a change of role, advanced notice as much as possible," said manager John Farrell (via the Boston Globe). "Maybe stretch him out an inning beforehand with an outfielder."
Perhaps Price can serve as a bridge for the Red Sox -- something like working the sixth and seventh innings before getting to Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel. He has the stuff to do it. Price is a former Cy Young winner who finished as the runner-up in voting as recently as 2015. Most starters are more effective in relief because they can pare down their arsenal and max out their effort instead of saving bullets for later in the outing.
Also, though it was long ago, Price found success out of the bullpen in the playoffs in 2008 for the Rays. In five outings (three in the ALCS, two in the World Series), he had a 1.59 ERA with eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. He held opponents to a .100/.250/.300 line. Small sample and, again, it was nearly a decade ago, so lots of caveats apply, but he has done it before.
It's also worth considering the possibility that this either doesn't work or results in Price re-aggravating the issue and being shut down again.
Regardless, it's worth monitoring. A full-go Price in the Miller role could end up a huge X-factor the Red Sox this October.
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