BOSTON — While most of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff stretched in center field, a tall left-hander, his No. 24 jersey untucked, stood in the right-field grass, taking part in a casual side session with bullpen catcher Mike Brenly.

“Just playing catch,” David Price said. “Still at 60 feet. Just emulate the way that you pitch.”

Price was just going through the motions.

The Red Sox hope he will do more than that Sunday, when Price starts Game 2 against the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park.

It is not an easy feeling for Red Sox fans, watching Price on the mound in a playoff game. He is 0-9 as a postseason starter – 0-2 with Boston, including an aborted start last weekend against the New York Yankees.

Price knows the narrative revolves around his postseason problems. When he sat in front of the microphone at a press conference Saturday before Game 1, he awaited the expected question and smiled when it came.

Question: “David, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about pitching in the postseason?”

Price shook his head. “I don’t know. That’s a tough question. I don’t really have an answer.

“I feel like I’ve given some answers the past eight years. But I really don’t have an answer for it,” he continued.

“I mean, it’s different baseball. It’s fun. I enjoy it. Haven’t been successful the way I know I can be and will be, but I look forward to getting out there (Sunday).”

When Price was knocked out of his ALDS start in the second inning – allowing three earned runs in 12/3 innings in a loss to the Yankees – there were calls to banish Price to the bullpen.

But Boston Manager Alex Cora – the man who can do no wrong (so far) – announced Price would be the Game 2 starter in the ALCS.

Outrageous?

No, sound decision. Price should start Sunday’s game.

Here’s why:

Price is a good pitcher. He has won 143 games, including a 16-7 record this year (3.58 ERA, 2.25 in the second half). If you take him out of the rotation, who do you add? Eduardo Rodriguez? He’s more unpredictable than Price.

Record against the Astros. Price is 1-0 in two starts against Houston this season, allowing two runs in six innings in a 5-4 win and two runs in 61/3 innings (10 strikeouts) in a no-decision. Add that to what he did in relief in last year’s ALDS against the Astros (two games, 62/3 innings, no runs).

The postseason record does not tell the whole story. Price, who was coming off an injury last year and could only relieve, performed well in the 2017 playoffs. And some of those previous playoff starts were pretty good performances – including an eight-inning, two-run outing for Detroit in 2014 – a 2-1 loss to Baltimore.

Admittedly, there are concerns:

The winless record is in Price’s head. Price has proven to be thin-skinned in the past, too concerned about criticism. Last year’s lashing out at the media, including the popular Dennis Eckersley, had Price portrayed as another overpriced, whiny prima donna. Great athletes can shut out the outside noise, but Price paid too much attention to it. This year, he seems more comfortable in Boston. But his lack of success in the postseason is obviously on his mind.

Cold weather. Price deals with a chronic circulation problem that leaves his hands and feet cold. When the weather is frigid, it can affect Price. In an April 11 start at Fenway, when it was 42 degrees, Price said he had little feeling in his hand, and he lasted only one inning, allowing four earned runs. Price said it should not be a problem Sunday, although he allowed that cold weather can affect his grip.

Cora dismissed the cold-weather issue, pointing to that 2014 game in Detroit, which was in 53-degree weather.

When asked about Price’s playoff start against the Yankees last weekend, Cora said it was more a mechanical issue, not a result of some doomed destiny.

“We feel if he attacks the way he did in the second half, using his fastball in different spots and creating differences in his velocity, he’ll be good,” Cora said.

Against New York, Price did not command his pitches. His cutter had no life and was crushed by the Yankees. Simply put, Price said he needs to execute pitches.

“I know I say that a lot,” Price said, “but that’s what I needed to do.”

Price always expected to make more playoff starts, and he has the manager’s backing. The decision to start Price in Game 2 was made seconds after the Red Sox eliminated the Yankees on Tuesday.

“Alex told me before we even got off the field that night,” Price said. “That was special.”

Cora seems able to extract a player’s potential at the right time.

Sunday would be a good time for David Price.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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