Is it possible that Boston Red Sox fans have seen the last of David Price as a starting pitcher?
In mid-July, Price hit the disabled list for the second time in four months with elbow problems. There was speculation of him not even being able to pitch again until 2018. Well, he did not pitch as a starter after that, but in lieu, he found a home in the bullpen starting in mid September. There were not many expectations for him, since he was coming back off of injury at the time, and that this was a new and unfamiliar role for him.
Prior to his return this year, he made only five relief appearances totaling 9.2 innings as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and 2010. He flashed a solid 1.86 ERA over those brief performances.
The Tennessee native managed to see greater success this year, as he did not allow any runs in 8.2 innings of regular season contention from this new spot. In fact, he was a major part of the Sox having any success in the postseason. In the span of two consecutive games, he pitched a combined 6.2 innings against the Houston Astros in Games 2 and 3 of the American League Division Series. In Game 2, he inherited loaded bases with one out. He got out of the inning without a blemish.
Without a doubt, Price would become a force as a reliever, but he would be making the most money among major league relief pitchers. He outranks Aroldis Chapman ($20 M/year) by a hefty 10 million dollars.
Would making the move make sense for the 2018 campaign?
The last starter-turned-reliever for Boston was Joe Kelly. Kelly was converted because he was stuggling mightily as a starter. Since his first full season with the BoSox, 2015, hitters were batting .284 against him with a massive .806 OPS. Those numbers saw significant drops after his conversion in 2014. They dipped to .202 and .570, respectively.
It would seem that moving Price to the bullpen would be premature, since he is still in his prime, but in the end, only time will tell.