Let’s take the Red Sox at their word right now, and assume that David Price is indeed suffering from inflammation in his left elbow and is physically unable to pitch for the time being. Both manager John Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski took great pains to emphasize the legitimacy of the injury.
“If he was physically healthy,’’ said Farrell, “he’d be pitching. He’s not (healthy).’’
“You can’t put a guy on the disabled list unless you get medical clearance from the commissioner’s office,’’ said Dombrowski.
"Let’s just pretend that somebody wanted to put a guy on the disabled list for a reason – the commissioner’s office checks the medical record and you have to send a doctor’s certification and all that.’’
For the moment, let’s ignore the fact that virtually every pitcher in the big leagues could be found to have some physical issue in the elbow or shoulder (inflammation, slight tears, what have you) in an MRI or x-ray, enough to justify such a transaction.
And finally, let’s give Price the benefit of the doubt that a pitcher of his stature would not be looking to willingly remove himself from his team’s rotation in the middle of a pennant race.
But maybe, just maybe, there could some – how to put this? — unintended consequences that come with Price missing the next few weeks. While Price’s elbow heals, perhaps he might also take the time to clear his head, to get a mental health break along with some physical recovery time.
That, in the long run, might not be such a bad thing.
The Red Sox need Price healthy if they’re going to win the division, or at the very least, grab a wild card and qualify for the post-season. No matter what you think of Price’s petty behavior toward Dennis Eckersley, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that there will be a significant drop-off from Price to Doug Fister, his temporary replacement. The Sox need Price pitching like he did until last weekend in Anaheim if they’re going to have a shot at playing deep into October.
For that to happen, he needs to have a healthy elbow. And just as crucially, he needs a clear head.
On the recent road trip, Price did not appear to be enjoying himself, and only some of that may have been caused by his poor outing in Anaheim, and the subsequent soreness he felt in his elbow when he tried to throw on the side a day or two after that start.
Surely, Price knew that a story in the Boston Globe, revisiting and adding new details to his confrontation on a team charter with Eckersley, had further made him Public Enemy No. 1 back in Boston and the subject of highly unflattering media coverage.
Missing Friday’s start and another next week, at minimum, won’t make Price’s issues in Boston disappear. Fans aren’t about to forgive and forget if his next Fenway start comes in a couple weeks. He’ll need to earn back their trust and good will by pitching better and behaving more professionally.
But this past week hasn’t been good for either Price or the Red Sox – on or off the field – and it’s reasonable to think that Price could benefit from some time off the mound.
“I think in the time that David has been here,’’ said Farrell, “he’s dealt with a lot of expectations, a lot that’s been a part of his time here in Boston. And I think he’s been able to stay focused and pitch extremely well at times. And there have been some times when the game of baseball just doesn’t allow for (good pitching).
“Time will tell if there’s a side benefit. But that’s to suggest that there’s an issue to begin with when he takes the mound, which there hasn’t. I know when David’s ready to take the mound, we’ll have a fully concentrated, committed and competitive guy.’’
That’s the ideal. For now, despite Price’s recent strong stretch, there’s reason to doubt that. Several organization sources have theorized that something has been going on with Price in recent weeks. Perhaps it’s personal. Perhaps it’s the fallout from his treatment of Eckersley.
Either way, a mid-season break may not be the worst thing. The Sox can afford to be without him in the short-term (plans are for Price to begin some light throwing early next week), and even if he’s down for longer, the Sox aren’t equipped to land a front-line starter to replace him.
“We’re not going to go out and make a big trade for a starting pitcher,’’ acknowledged Dombrowski.
The Sox barely have enough capital to get some late-inning bullpen help. Surely, they don’t have the chips to get into the bidding for Yu Darvish or Sonny Gray.
What they do have is a very good pitcher who would seem to need some time to get both his elbow and head right.
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