Price em­braces Red Sox role

Fear­less pitcher ready to make mark with new team in Bos­ton

Chicago Sun-Times - - MLB - Bob Night­en­gale bnighten@us­ato­day.com USA TO­DAY Sports FOL­LOW MLB COLUM­NIST BOB NIGHT­EN­GALE @BNight­en­gale for anal­y­sis and break­ing news from the di­a­mond.

Folks have been try­ing to frighten David Price ever since he de­cided to go to work for the Bos­ton Red Sox.

They bring up sto­ries of naive free agents who came to Bos­ton think­ing they could han­dle the re­lent­less scru­tiny of the­me­dia and fans, only to be beg­ging to be traded a few months later.

They talk about all the hor­rors of pitch­ing at Fen­way Park and the ruth­less line­ups of the Amer­i­can League East.

And they bring up the anx­i­ety of shar­ing a club­house with Red Sox icon David Or­tiz, with the two once hav­ing ex­changed a nasty vol­ley of words af­ter Price hit him in the back with a pitch.

Sorry, the scare tac­tics won’t work, just as they didn’t two years ago when Or­tiz threat­ened him, only for Price to tell him to stop “act­ing as if he’s big­ger than the game.”

“I hear all of the sto­ries peo­ple have,” Bos­ton’s new $ 217 mil­lion ace told USA TO­DAY Sports. “But re­ally, I knew all that when I signed up for this. I’ve got thick skin. You’ve got to have thick skin in this game. I know it’s a tough place to play, but if you can em­brace that and throw the base­ball the way I know I’m ca­pa­ble of, I can’t imag­ine how it will feel to have that pas­sion­ate fan base be­hind you, where they get so loud the dugout shakes and you feel like Fen­way is go­ing to crum­ble. That’s why I came here.”

And it’s why Dave Dom­browski, who, as Detroit Tigers gen­eral man­ager last sea­son, traded Price to re­stock the team’s mi­nor league sys­tem, couldn’t wait to get him back. Dom­browski traded Price on July 30, was fired Aug. 4, two weeks later be­came the Red Sox pres­i­dent and on the first day of De­cem­ber signed Price. “You can never pre­dict how life works,” Dom­browski said. “I was hop­ing he would be in Detroit for years. At the time, I was hop­ing I’d be there for years, too. Now, here we are back to­gether, and I couldn’t be hap­pier.”

Price could have opted for the fer­tile pitch­ing grounds of the Na­tional League West, which has pro­duced 12 of the last 17 NL Cy Young Award win­ners. He could have been close to his Nashville home pitch­ing for the St. Louis Car­di­nals or Chicago Cubs in the NL, the DH all but erad­i­cated from his life.

He could have picked a town in which he could have got­ten dressed each day in peace, with­out waves of re­porters and cam­era crews wait­ing like pa­parazzi out­side aHol­ly­wood restau­rant.

The man chose Bos­ton and has no doubt it’s the per­fect choice.

“Peo­ple can make it how­ever they want,” Price said. “They can talk about my con­tract or be­ing an ace. It’s not go­ing to change my pas­sion and love for the game of base­ball. It’s not go­ing to ad­dmore pres­sure onme.”

Price paused, slowly broke into a grin, and said, “Be­sides, I like chal­lenges.”

Well, he has one in Bos­ton, hav­ing joined a team that has fin­ished in last place in three of the last four sea­sons; lead­ing a ro­ta­tion that had the sev­en­th­worst ERA ( 4.39) last sea­son; and work­ing for a club that has em­ployed three man­agers and three gen­eral­man­agers in the last five years.

Bring it on, Price says, be­cause he has plans.

He wants to be­come the first pitcher in the DH era to spend his en­tire ca­reer in the AL and reach the Hall of Fame, though Mike Mussi­namight beat him to it. “If I can con­tinue throw­ing the base­ball the way I’m ca­pa­ble of throw­ing it,” said Price, one of five pitch­ers in his­tory to win ERA ti­tles with two dif­fer­ent AL teams, “I have a chance to do some­thing spe­cial. ... I want to leave my mark on base­ball. That’s very im­por­tant to me.”

He wants to be as beloved a fig­ure in Bos­ton as Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez or even Or­tiz, who ended his feud with Price, hug­ging him the first time he saw him in camp. “Be­ing ac­cepted by all my team­mates is some­thing I want and need,” Price said, “es­pe­cially for Big Papi, the heart and soul of this team and of the city of Bos­ton. That was huge for me.”

Most im­por­tant, he wants to re­turn the Red Sox to great­ness and reach the heights he found with the Tampa Bay Rays, Tigers and — for the fi­nal two months of 2015— the Toronto Blue Jays.

This is a five- time All- Star who has a 104- 56 record and 3.09 ERA. He won the Cy Young award in 2012 and fin­ished run­ner- up twice, in­clud­ing last year. He has av­er­aged 217 in­nings a sea­son since be­com­ing a full- time starter. So you think he can be scared? He plans to live in down­town Bos­ton, a scooter ride from Fen­way Park, en­joy the city, visit all the his­tor­i­cal spots and, ul­ti­mately, hopes to ex­pe­ri­ence that fa­mous Bos­ton at­trac­tion. “I want to see a Duck Boat,” Price said. “I mean, the good one. The Duck Boat pa­rade they have for win­ning cham­pi­onships.”

Who’s scared now?

KIM KLEMENT, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

David Price is sure he’ll con­tinue dom­i­nat­ing with the Red Sox.

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