When Alex Cora arose from the Red Sox’ dugout to pull David Price Tuesday following another scorching liner, Dennis Eckersley said the surly left-hander was “getting his lunch” in the inning.
Eck could’ve said much worse, especially given how Price recently tried to smear his reputation over some sharp no-comments to the Boston Globe. When asked about Price’s infamous airplane ambush from 2017 –– which reportedly stemmed from Eckersley saying “yuck” when an ugly pitching line from one of Eduardo Rodriguez’s rehab outings flashed on the screen –– the Hall of Famer said he doesn’t “plan on seeing (Price), never.” That prompted Price to unleash a verbal assault on Eckersley, questioning his character and relationships with ex-teammates.
"Honestly, I just think it’s trash,” Price told reporters two weeks ago. “He had an unbelievable career, 25 seasons. He’s a Hall of Famer. I saw his special on MLB Network. It was cool. One thing that stood out to me is he had zero former teammates in that interview. Not one talking about him. … If anybody ever does a special about me after baseball, I won’t need to go on that interview. I will have former teammates, former coaches, they can all vouch for me. He didn’t have that. To me, that’s all you need to know.”
This context isn’t meant to generate Round 3 of Price v. Eck, which would be as fresh as Rocky V. But the background is important to include, because it tells the story of a supremely confident pitcher who proclaimed he “holds all the cards now,” only to get sucked back into the morass of petty vengeance.
Price is 0-2 with an 8.16 ERA since resuscitating his ridiculous one-sided feud with Eckersley. The Red Sox are winless in this three outings, including Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Rays, in which Price was yanked after allowing four runs and nine hits –– including two home runs –– over 4.1 innings. Most of Tampa Bay’s damage was done in the fifth inning, which started when Travis d’Arnaud launched a 90 mile-per-hour fastball over the heart of the plate deep into the Monster seats. Two batters later, Avisail Garcia smacked a lazy cutter into the center field bleachers to tie up the game at three.
Price’s last 10 starts have not been good. He’s posted a 4.99 ERA and is averaging roughly five innings per outing. This season, Price has thrown 102.2 frames in 20 starts, which averages out to barely five innings each time he graces the mound with his interminable pace.
It looks like that magic elbow is starting to morph into the elbow of a soon-to-be 34-year-old hurler who pitched a ton of innings last October and admittedly would’ve undergone Tommy John surgery two years ago if he were younger. At the time, Price assuaged concerns about his durability by saying doctors informed him about his “extremely unique” elbow that can “heal itself.”
He went on to start only 11 games that season before shifting to the bullpen.
Price’s October workload was extraordinary, making six appearances in 14 games. Most impressively, he pitched on short rest in Game 5 just two days after appearing out of the pen in the seven-hour, 18-inning Game 3.
It would be understandable if Price’s left arm didn’t hold up for the duration of the season following that kind of run. It’s apparent he’s on some sort innings count, anyway. But now he’s back in the spotlight and reverted to pariah status. The Red Sox need to lean on Price over these final two months, especially with Chris Sale’s struggles. This high-priced starting rotation has been the biggest disappointing on the team. It was easy to predict Colten Brewer and Ryan Brasier would be lousy; Sale and Rick Porcello don’t get the same low expectations.
Price must serve as the staff’s stalwart during this pennant push. While Sale just signed the $145 million extension, Price is the $217 million man. He is the most expensive pitcher in baseball history, and when the season starts ramping up, he reignites fights with beloved franchise legends and gets bombed by Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
Is there a word harsher than “yuck?