Boston Red Sox

Phillips | How important is a healthy David Price to the Red Sox?

(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

It has been a whirlwind of a season for David Price — and that’s before getting into his off-the-field transgressions.

The $217 million man for the Boston Red Sox has tossed just 66 innings in his second season in Boston. One can blame the pitcher’s prized left elbow for that. He missed the first 49 games of 2017 with a strain in the joint, then returned for 11 starts before hitting the disabled list again on July 28 with inflammation.

At first, there were concerns Price’s latest elbow issues would require Tommy John surgery, but the southpaw was able to toss from 90 feet earlier this week. It’s progress, but there is still no timetable regarding Price’s return. Manager John Farrell also told WEEI he has not decided whether or not Price will require a minor league assignment as part of his rehab.

Boston, first in the American League East, has no need to rush Price back. That said, it would be silly to think the former Cy Young Award winner would not be an asset down the stretch.

Yes, Price has been inconsistent since inking his name for a fortune — a far cry from what the Red Sox signed up for. And yes, his repeated run-ins with the Boston media, including Hall-of-Famer-turned-NESN-broadcaster Dennis Eckersley, have been a distraction. But let’s not act like the Red Sox would be better off without Price.

While his postseason numbers are tough to stomach (2-8 record, 5.54 ERA, 1.230 WHIP), the Red Sox still have to reach October. It’s only August, the Yankees and Rays have been streaky like Boston and there’s still plenty of baseball left to play.

While Price is no longer the ace of his staff — that designation is firmly in the hands of Chris Sale — no member of the rotation has as much playoff chase experience as Price. Not only is he familiar with pitching in the heat of a pennant race, but he’s pretty darn good at it, too.

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 22: Boston Red Sox Starting pitcher David Price (24) throws a pitch during an MLB game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 22 2017 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Let’s call August, September and the few regular-season games that trickle into October the stretch run months. Well, if his career is any indication, the Red Sox would love to have Price around for those portions of the calendar.

For his career, the 31-year-old has an August stat line of a 2.89 ERA, 1.079 WHIP and .226/.273/.346 slash line allowed in 295.2 innings (44 starts). He has taken on even more work in September/October (330.1 innings, 48 starts) with a 3.08 ERA, 1.105 WHIP and .225/.277/.337 slash line allowed.

Throughout his career, Price’s best numbers for starts, innings pitched, batting average and slugging percentage are in the last month of the season.

In other words, the guy is pretty useful if your team is trying to secure a playoff berth or a maintain a division lead. In the postseason Price is a different story, but the Red Sox have to build that bridge before they can cross it.

And yes, Price’s tenure in Boston has not exactly corresponded with his overall career track record — he could be inconsistent or even awful once he returns. That’s fair. So is criticizing him for not living up to his contract.

But when the Red Sox need to win a few games down the line, their fans would much prefer him on the mound over Doug Fister.

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