BOSTON — David Price is more likely to be used as a closer in the playoffs than a starter, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday.
While the pitching rotation for the AL Division Series against the Houston Astros hasn’t been set beyond left-handers Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz in Games 1 and 2, Farrell said none of the scenarios he is considering involve Price as a starter.
“At this point, no,” Farrell said plainly before the team worked out at Fenway Park. But when asked whether he would consider using closer Craig Kimbrel in a spot other than finishing the game, Farrell said: “The addition of David Price, let’s face it, it has changed the dynamic of our bullpen.
“Two or three guys (are) interchangeable at the highest leveraged spots,” Farrell said. “And that includes David being one of those.”
Since coming to Boston in 2016 as a $217 million free agent, Price has struggled to establish himself as the ace that the Red Sox were hoping for. He went 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA in his first year in Boston, when teammate Rick Porcello was even better, winning the AL Cy Young, and Price faltered in his one playoff start to continue a career-long trend.
Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski traded for Sale in the offseason, and he delivered a 17-8 record and 2.90 ERA. Price spent the first two months of the season on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation and went back on the DL in July, missing another month.
Returning without enough time to build up his arm strength for starting, Price went to the bullpen and has pitched 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball.
“I don’t think we can ask anything more of David Price from a physical standpoint, the way he’s embraced this role,” Farrell said. “It’s been outstanding.”
Sale was the obvious choice to start Game 1 against Houston’s Justin Verlander, and any doubt was removed when the Red Sox lefty was scratched from the meaningless regular-season finale against the Astros on Sunday.
Farrell said Sale had an “aggressive” bullpen session instead, throwing with more intensity than he would if he didn’t have four extra days of rest.
“He’s tuned up and ready to go,” Farrell said.
Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32 ERA) was a lock for Game 2 until he faltered in his second-to-last start of the season, giving up five runs in two innings against the Blue Jays. But he responded by taking a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning on Saturday, when the Red Sox clinched the AL East.
Farrell has three options for Game 3 in Boston on Sunday: Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Doug Fister. If Game 4 is necessary, he will have his choice from who’s left or also look at whether Sale could come back on three days’ rest.
“That would only be dependent on how Game 1 goes,” Farrell said.
He also said Rodriguez and Porcello were candidates for the bullpen but Fister was not.
Also Monday, Farrell said second baseman Dustin Pedroia is on track to play every day during the series despite missing five games near the end of the season with a sore left knee.
“He’s feeling like the last couple of days off have helped him,” Farrell said. “It’s a work in progress and don’t anticipate it really changing. I do know this: he is chomping at the bit to be available in the postseason.”
Farrell said Eduardo Nunez has also improved after missing 19 of the last 20 games of the season with a sore knee. The utility infielder had six at-bats against live pitching in batting practice on Sunday and showed “a marked improvement,” the manager said.
“Yesterday was an encouraging day,” he said.