David Price was warming up and was just a few pitches away from being able to enter the game. But it wouldn’t matter. As Price threw in the bullpen, Koji Uehara retired Wil Myers, James Loney, and Evan Longoria in order in the 9th inning to seal the win for the Red Sox to send them to the American League Champioship Series. It felt wrong. Price was the pitcher who had always been on the mound for all the big moments, from 2008 ALCS Game 7 until the tiebreaker game against the Rangers this season. Price was the pitcher the Rays wanted on the mound win, lose, or draw. And there he was on the bullpen mound unable to do a thing.
At the end of the day, some of the blame falls on Price’s own shoulders. Price’s struggles at the beginning of the season and subsequent injury made it diffcult for the Rays from the start. As the Rays slumped from the end of August to the middle of September, Price failed to be the stopper, allowing 4 runs on August 30th and then 6 more on September 5th to take the Rays’ struggles to another level. And in ALDS Game 2, the Rays were desperate for a win after a disastrous Game 1, and instead Price allowed 7 runs in 7 innings of work. Price had so many great moments for the Rays this season and it is conceivable that they have come nearly this far without him. At the same time, though, this season we saw more than ever that Price is far from perfect. No matter how good a pitcher David Price is, he will always have his bad starts. When Price does get hit around, you always hope he receives a chance for redemption, a chance to remind everyone that one bad start changes nothing. How could David Price put the Rays in a 2-0 hole in the ALDS and not have an opportunity to make up for it? But that was exactly the situation. Price can pitch as well as any pitcher in baseball, but some things are simply out of his control.
“If you go with what’s been done in the past, I guess you’re going to have to think you’re going to get traded. That’s kind of the way it’s happened with this organization when pitchers kind of get to this period in their career. We’ve seen it happen a couple of times already. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know what’s happened in the past.”
As Price spoke to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, it became increasingly clear that he has to grips with the fact that his time in Tampa Bay is ending and there is nothing he can do to stop it. He can head to the mound every five days and pitch as well as he can, but that’s it. He needs his team to be there for him, to pick him up when he struggles and get him back on the mound to try again. Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t happen. David Price can lead the Rays to the World Series by himself. David Price can’t change the reality of the Tampa Bay Rays organization where players of his caliber cannot be afforded in the long term and are traded as a result. All Price can do is stand on that bullpen mound and hope for a miracle.