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By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
DAVID PRICE IS BACK
Last season was by far the worst of David Price’s career for a multitude of reasons. He could not stay on the field, and had a couple of well publicized controversies off the field. Many observers consider his 2016 campaign to be a success, but I would hardly call a 3.99 ERA a “success.” The former Tampa Bay Ray gave up the most home runs that year, and started his first season with the Red Sox 6-0 with a 6.75 ERA.
Price’s approach to 2018 seems to be a lot smarter, especially considering the mileage on his throwing arm. His fastball is averaging only 92mph. However, he is able to throw all of his pitches with precise command all over the strike zone.
Pitchers in their 30’s often have to find ways to adapt to their loss of velocity, and find creative ways to remain at the sports most elite level. While it’s still very early, it’s hard not be to extremely encouraged as to how Price will positively contribute to this Red Sox rotation. Not to mention he might finally justify his massive $217M contract.
HANLEY RAMIREZ’ VESTING OPTION
After having minor surgery on both of his shoulders, Hanley has gotten off to the hottest start of any player on Boston’s roster. It was widely speculated throughout the winter that the Red Sox front office would seek creative ways to prevent Ramirez from reaching the 497 at bats required to trigger his $22M vesting option for 2019. The signing of Mitch Moreland only seemed to fuel those rumors, followed by the eventual signing of J.D. Martinez to create an even bigger logjam.
However, it seems very obvious that Mitch Moreland is the odd man out as far as regular playing time. Alex Cora seems adament that the 34 year old will hit third in the order, and all indications are that he will be the regular first baseman for the bulk of the season regardless of whether his option vests. His contract appears to be no concern whatsoever to President Dave Dombrowski.
BOBBY POYNER EMERGES
Poyner flew so low under the radar, he was actually a non-roster invitee to spring training. He had only previously pitched as high as AA-Portland, and was not considered to be a threat to make the team. As spring wore on, the 25 year old rookie had impressed manager Alex Cora with his sub 2.00 ERA in the grapefruit league, that he beat out Robbie Scott to be the only lefty out of the Red Sox bullpen.
Through the first seven games, Poyner has regularly gotten opposing hitter’s out with ease, and has not given up a single walk.
Above all, the young lefty shows major league poise out on the mound, and is not rattled by by the pressure of playing in the big leagues. At this current rate, I expect him to become a prominent late inning reliever.
The long winter has not had any ill effects on the 21 year old’s development. Devers has had several clutch hits which has directly impacted the outcomes of several close Red Sox games. He appears to especially thrive in high leverage situations, and has a slash line of .280/.357/.400.
Aside from his timely hitting, Devers has proven to be much less of a defensive liability than many people anticipated. Boston has not had a full time third baseman since Mike Lowell occupied the “hot corner” for five seasons before retiring following the 2010 campaign. Nearly eight years later, the young Dominican native sure does look the part.
KIMBREL’S EVOLVING ROLE
It’s been reported that Craig Kimbrel won’t necessarily be pitching exclusively in the ninth inning. If the heart of the opposing team’s order comes up in the seventh or eighth inning, it’s possibly Kimbrel could enter the game at those points.
Alex Cora has been tinkering with his using other relievers in the ninth inning for lower leverage situations. Joe Kelly recorded his first career save over the weekend. Matt Barnes could possibly find himself closing out a game. And even Bobby Poyner might find himself coming in after Kimbrel.
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