BOSTON — David Price and the Red Sox knew his bar would be set high from the moment he signed a seven-year, $217 million contract with Boston last December.
As such, they knew the questions were coming after the left-hander’s 2016 season ended with another postseason disappointment.
Price again failed to shake his playoff demons last Friday, allowing five runs in just 3 1/3 innings to take the loss in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. That outing marked the conclusion of an up-and-down season for the 31-year-old veteran, who endured a brutal first two months before turning things around down the stretch to finish with a 17-9 record and a 3.99 ERA.
It wasn’t exactly the introduction to Boston that Price had hoped for, but his manager still found a positive to take out of the five-time All-Star’s 2016 campaign.
“As a whole? A strong year,” John Farrell said Tuesday in a press conference at Fenway Park. “I know that the expectations are enormous for a guy in his situation, coming in with the premise and the contract that which he signed. But you’re looking at a guy that was — the number of innings pitched, the number of games he took as deep into ballgames with a chance to win, a 17-game winner in his own right. Everything you’re looking for in a top-of-the rotation pitcher, he provided.”
Well, maybe not everything. Price now is 0-8 with a 7.74 ERA in nine career postseason starts and has allowed three or more runs in five consecutive playoff outings. Yet the nine-year veteran has a staunch supporter in Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who saw Price pitch very well for the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS despite taking the loss.
“I still have confidence that David will pitch well in the postseason,” Dombrowski said Tuesday. “I wish he had another outing this year. And I can say that for my own self, because I’ve seen him well in the postseason.
“… He has the capabilities of pitching well. It just hasn’t happened for him so far, but I think he’ll go out and do it.”
As for Price, the 2012 Cy Young Award winner is well aware of the burden he now carries.
“I need to get it off my back,” Price said Tuesday of his postseason struggles. “And until I do, it’s gonna be a topic of conversation and I’m fully aware of that. If you don’t like it, pitch better.”
Price appears especially determined to do just that.
“I want to make these fans love me,” he added, “And I have six more years to get it done.”
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images