From malcontent to masterful: How David Price became indispensable to the Red Sox

John Tomase
NBC Sports Boston

From malcontent to masterful: How David Price became indispensable to the Red Sox originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com

Somebody should rummage through the discarded laundry of the 2014 Red Sox and find a t-shirt that's only to be worn on the days David Price pitches.

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"He's the Ace."

Three years after signing a record $217 million contract and two years after watching it nearly all burn, Price has claimed his place atop the Red Sox rotation in a comeback that might not reach Tiger Woods levels, but certainly deserves its own extended golf clap.

A one-time candidate for highest-paid malcontent in sports, Price has emerged from his darkest days in Boston to stabilize the defending World Series champions.

On Sunday, he gave the team exactly what it needed following Saturday's listless loss to the Orioles, tossing seven shutout innings and making one measly run stand in a 4-0 victory.

It was easily his best start of a season that had seen him pitch better than the 0-2 record and 6.00 ERA he carried into the game. Months after exorcizing his postseason demons and declaring that he held all the cards, Price found himself dealing again, and not a moment too soon.

"If you take a look at his starts, his stuff has been there, three pitches in Oakland, then that inning in Arizona, but stuff-wise he's way ahead of where he was last year at this point," said manager Alex Cora. "Everybody knew where we were pitching-wise today, and for him to go seven and give the ball to those last two guys, it was very important to us."

With ace Chris Sale and former Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello struggling alongside postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox rotation had found itself mirroring the disastrous 2014 group that claimed it had five aces when in fact it had none. These Red Sox were adrift and in need of an anchor.

Enter Price.

"Every time he takes the ball, he expects to go deep into a game and shut the other team down," said teammate Dustin Pedroia, who was in the opposing dugout during Price's coming-out party during the 2008 American League Championship Series. "That's his mentality. Today was a perfect example. I've seen it a lot of times. We've had it happen to us a lot. He was great today."

Price limited the Orioles to three hits and no walks, striking out seven. His fastball reached 94 mph and he induced 18 swings and misses with six different pitches.

Price has endured some serious slings and arrows since arriving in Boston, often of his own making. But he was the team's best pitcher down the stretch last season, going 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA after injuries shelved Sale, and then he should've won the World Series MVP Award after a narrative-shattering postseason that included a victory in the clincher.

He entered this season as the presumed No. 2 starter behind Sale, but three uncharacteristic starts from Price's fellow left-hander has left the top spot in the rotation up for grabs, and Price has snatched it.

"You look at the real numbers pitching-wise, I don't know, his WHIP is below 1.00, so that's a good sign," Cora said. "The ERA right now, obviously, that will go up and down, it's not too many innings but the numbers don't really matter, there's not too much traffic with him."

After the game, Price was asked about Tiger winning the Masters. From one redemption story to another, he offered his congratulations.

"We messed up by not wearing red today," Price said. "I'm happy he pulled that off. That's awesome. For him to endure everything he's been through and get on top and win another Masters, we're all pumped for him."

Price can relate. The Boston experience hasn't always been smooth, but at this moment, Price is exactly where he belongs. Somebody order the t-shirts.

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