David Price is set to be the No. 5 starter in the Red Sox rotation, but the lefthander isn’t ruling out a relief appearance during the season’s opening weekend.
Price pitched four innings Tuesday in Boston’s final exhibition game, a 16-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs, then said he’s interested in pitching an inning or two during a season-opening series at Seattle that begins Thursday.
The 33-year-old Price was slowed this spring because of a norovirus, and Tuesday was his first game since March 12. Boston decided to slot Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello ahead of him in the rotation, with an eye on potentially getting Price some work during one of the first two regular season games.
“I don’t know if he wants a tune-up, but we could do a cool thing in game one or two in Seattle just to get his feet wet,” manager Alex Cora said.
“It’s just another rep,” Price said. “It’s just getting out there in a real game, one that counts. You can kind of do things a little differently than in spring training. To get out there in a real game, it makes everything a little more natural.”
The Red Sox open the season with an 11-game West Coast swing, including stops in Seattle, Oakland, and Arizona, playing 11 games in 11 days. Following one travel day, they’ll open the 108th season of baseball at Fenway Park with a 2 p.m. game against AL East rival Toronto on Tuesday, April 9.
An off-day after the opener and the presence of an extra pitcher could help if Cora wants to shuffle his starters, but the schedule lines up to put Eovaldi — whose epic relief performance in the World Series helped net him a big free-agent contract to stay with Boston — on the mound for the home opener.
Another player who made a mint in the World Series, MVP Steve Pearce, will start the season on the injured list due to a left calf problem that has kept him out of action since March 17. He and Dustin Pedroia are likely to continue working in Fort Myers at the team’s facility.
Pearce’s absence netted first baseman Sam Travis his first Opening Day roster spot, filling in the platoon opposite righty-mashing Mitch Moreland. The Opening Day roster:
Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart. (Sandy Leon made it through waivers and must choose whether to accept the assignment to Triple A Pawtucket or forfeit his $2.475M salary to become a free agent.)
Infielder (6): Mitch Moreland, Sam Travis, Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers.
Outfielders (4): Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez.
Starting Pitchers (5): Chris Sale (L), Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez (L), Rick Porcello, David Price (L).
Relief Pitchers (8): Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, Brian Johnson (L), Brandon Workman, Hector Velazquez. (Pedroia’s spot is being taken by Brewer, whom they acquired after San Diego released him in November.)
Last year, Price totaled 12 innings in three spring games, then went 16-7 with a 3.58 ERA over 30 starts. Despite the virus, Price said he feels better physically than a year ago.
“I didn’t get as many reps as I got last year in spring training but physically I feel it’s one of the strongest I’ve felt heading into opening day,” he said.
Price retired the first two batters in the Chicago fourth before Kyle Schwarber homered. Mark Zagunis tripled and scored on Addison Russell’s double before Price was pulled.
“He was good,” Cora said of Price. “Good stuff, good velocity, good location. He got his work in and now we go.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.