FORT MYERS, Fla. — Just a few days ago, a local columnist called Red Sox spring training “Camp Not Much Going On.”
That changed yesterday when the team revealed that David Price had been scratched from his first exhibition start because of soreness in his left elbow and forearm. Price, in the second year of a seven-year, $217-million contract, had an MRI Wednesday and is expected to seek a second opinion this week from orthopedic surgeons James Andrews and Neal ElAttrache.
The results of the MRI were inconclusive. Manager John Farrell said, “We are concerned. As we would be with any player.”
Price, of course, is not just any player. The 31-year-old lefthander is the owner of the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history. He is part of a Big Three the Red Sox hope to send to the mound this season along with lefthander Chris Sale and 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.
So Boston has some cushion if Price is seriously injured and has to miss significant time — or even if he has to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery, always the immediate fear when elbow soreness is detected and a second opinion is requested. Price averaged 32 starts the past seven seasons.
Joe Girardi was asked about Price’s injury before the Yankees’ game against the Orioles last night. “Anytime you hear a pitcher associated with James Andrews, it’s not what you want to hear,” Girardi said. “There have been guys that went to James Andrews and came back and been fine, but I know I cringe when I hear our guys are going to see James Andrews. Not because he’s not great at what he does, but you worry about something really wrong.”
The Red Sox also are adjusting to the absence of beloved designated hitter David Ortiz, who retired after hitting .315 with 38 homers and 127 RBIs.
The Red Sox kept the door open a crack if Ortiz, 41, changed his mind. He has not. On Wednesday, Big Papi posted a photo on Instagram of him palling around with billionaire Warren Buffett.
The Red Sox plan to use Hanley Ramirez as their primary DH and signed former Ranger Mitch Moreland to play first base.
The Red Sox led the majors in runs with 878 last season en route to 93 wins and the AL East title. They may not be as potent without Ortiz, but they still should be among the best offensive clubs in baseball. Yesterday they beat the Rays, 19-2.
“I think we have a really balanced lineup,” said centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who blossomed into an All-Star last season, as did rightfielder Mookie Betts, who finished second in the MVP race. “We can produce in numerous ways.”
Ortiz was such a cult figure in Boston that his retirement was a season-long story line, just as Derek Jeter’s was with the Yankees in 2014. Former Yankees outfielder Chris Young witnessed the final seasons and subsequent spring trainings for both legends. He said that while both may be gone, they certainly are not forgotten.
“With Jete and with David, you realize how much they mean for the team, but not just the team,” Young said. “How much they mean for the community, the fan base. It’s a big deal. When you think of a team, you think of that person. So when they leave, it’s tough at first.
“But at the same time, they left their mark that even when they’re not here, they leave a lasting impression on how things should be done and what winning baseball looks like. Definitely, David is missed, but he definitely left his mark here.”
With Erik Boland in Tampa, Fla.