David Price has been the most enigmatic starting pitcher for the Red Sox so far this season. He’s made some very good starts, but also has had his fair share of stinkers. When broken down into two separate performance categories, it looks like this.
Price in 4 starts vs. TB (twice), LAA and OAK: 26.2 IP, 19 hits, 8 BB, 6 ER, 22 K.
Price in 3 starts vs. NYY, TB and TEX: 10.1 IP, 17 hits, 8 BB, 16 ER, 10 K.
That’s like looking at the stat lines for 2 completely different pitchers. It’s safe to say that Price has been inconsistent at best.
In one of those starts (vs. NYY on 4/11), Price left the game after 1 inning with what he called a “tingling sensation” in his throwing hand. That sensation was present again as he was scratched from his scheduled start tonight vs. NYY. Price was sent back to Boston to undergo medical testing to determine what exactly the cause of this problem is, so the question is what can Boston do with its rotation if Price needs a stint on the DL to recover?
There’s 4 viable options. The first (and most likely) being replacing Price with Hector Velazquez, and the 2nd being replacing him with Brian Johnson, both of whom are converted starters.
Velazquez has been excellent for the Red Sox so far in 2018. While being used in multiple roles (2 starts, 6 relief appearances), he’s compiled a 2.38 ERA in 22.2 IP. He’s averaging 6.3 K/9 and is leaving over 93% of runners on base. Being a RHP himself, he’s been best against right-handed hitters, allowing 0 runs and holding them to a .296 SLG, compared to 6 runs and a .583 SLG vs. lefties.
Brian Johnson hasn’t been quite as prolific this year, but he’s shown the ability to compete at the MLB level. His last 3 appearances have been a little rough, but prior to that he had allowed just 3 runs on 11 hits in 13 IP. He, like Velazquez, has been more effective against hitters of the same handedness, with a 3.38 ERA vs. lefties compared to a 7.11 ERA vs. righties.
Alex Cora could always decide, as well, to use either Velazquez or Johnson situationally, depending on the opponent’s lineup. For instance, if Boston plays a team that’s heavy with right-handed hitters, he could go with Velazquez. Conversely, he could choose Johnson to take the mound vs. a team comprised of mostly lefties.
(Jalen Beeks throws a pitch for the Portland Sea Dogs last year. Photo credit: Over the Monster)
The 4th option here is probably the least likely, and that involves a guy who’s name has been making some headlines down in the Minors, Jalen Beeks. Beeks is carrying a 1.71 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 26.1 IP with AAA Pawtucket. He’s been completely overpowering opponents, striking out over 15 batters per 9 innings and holding them to a .182 BA. It’s unclear whether or not the organization believes that Beeks, at only 24-years old, is ready for the big leagues yet, but he’s shown the ability to be an effective, and at times even dominant, pitcher against eventual Major Leaguers.
All of this speculation could be for naught, of course. David Price could be told that he’s perfectly healthy and return for his next scheduled start, keeping everything exactly as is, but with his history of elbow issues and the possible connection between that and what he’s experiencing now, it’s very possible that he could be missing a good portion of 2018 on the DL, and if that’s the case those are the most likely scenarios for his replacement.