Obviously, any time you hear “elbow soreness” and “MRI” in connection to a pitcher, your mind can’t help but go to the worst-case scenario: Tommy John surgery. With limited information at this time, it’s perhaps premature to jump to that conclusion. But the fact that Price is heading to the NFL Combine to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews (per the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham) isn’t the most promising sign.
“He’s gone through some soreness in the forearm/elbow area in previous spring trainings. But this one’s got a little bit more intensity to it . . . He feels improved today over yesterday, so that’s an encouraging sign. But, still, we have to take every step along the way to get our arms around this in its entirety.”
Price has high hopes to bounce back in his second season with the Red Sox after a somewhat underwhelming first campaign in Boston. He was his usually workhorse self, leading the majors with 230 innings pitched. However, the southpaw wasn’t nearly as effective as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him. Price posted a 3.99 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, numbers that were buoyed by a markedly better second half (4.34 ERA before the All-Star break; 3.58 ERA after).
While it was not quite the all-out disaster that some have described it as, Red Sox fans rightfully expected more from the man in which their team invested a massive seven-year, $217 million contract. Price’s poor showing in his lone postseason start (3.1 IP, 5 ER vs. Cleveland in ALDS Game 2) left a bad final impression for his 2016 season as well.
Price reportedly threw a simulated game on Tuesday, after which the elbow soreness first cropped up. His next scheduled start has been scratched as he and the club await results.
If Price is indeed forced to miss significant time this year, then the blockbuster offseason acquisition of Chris Sale will suddenly look more like a necessity than a luxury. Initially expected to lead the staff along with Price and reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, the pressure would be on Sale to pick up the slack and continue pitching like the dominant ace he’s been for the White Sox over the past several years.
Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez should round out the rest of the rotation, but all come with their own health-related question marks. Boston’s high-powered offense might need to overcome some possible hiccups from a shaky starting staff. The Red Sox roster is strong and deep enough that they should be able to survive the potential loss of Price, but he’s certainly an asset you would prefer to have at your disposal, considering his track record as a top big league starter.