On Thursday morning, it was revealed that David Price would be having a visit with Dr. James Andrews due to arm soreness. As with any visit to Dr. Andrews, this is not a routine injury. The Red Sox look poised to be American League favorites, but Price and his health will be the key to Boston accomplishing it’s goals.

In back-to-back offseasons, the Red Sox have landed the best pitcher available. Prior to the 2016 season, the Red Sox signed David Price to a record contract and two months after their abrupt playoff exit last season, Boston pulled off a blockbuster trade for Chris Sale. Despite these acquisitions, both pitchers have some questions to answer. Sale is a bonafide ace, but he has never pitched in the postseason. Price, on the other hand, needs to rebound from an up and down first season in Boston that culminated in another lackluster postseason outing.

For Boston, Price’s performance will be the key to their success. Sale will pitch well, and Rick Porcello should have another strong year even if he doesn’t quite live up to the Cy Young level he pitched at in 2016. If Price can come back to be an elite level starter during the regular and postseason, the Red Sox will be a favorite to reach the World Series. If he comes back as inconsistent, especially in big games, the Red Sox will have difficulty realizing their championship aspirations.

In 2016, Price posted an overall record of 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.204 WHIP. He also gave up the most home runs of his career, 30. His 50 walks were not a career high, but that number has risen steadily since he walked a career low 27 batters in 2013. The overall numbers don’t tell the whole story on Price, who was a different pitcher from the first half of the season to the second. He posted a 2.93 ERA in August and won seven straight starts in the second half, but he still had an inconsistent September that led to a shellacking at the hands of the Indians, pitching 3 1/3 innings and giving up five runs.

Although he looked markedly better in the second half of the season overall, his first half numbers were abysmal. His ERA was at or over 5.00 for much of the first half and he looked nothing like the ace the Red Sox thought they’d signed.

Price had been optimistic, saying on a podcast earlier this month that he believes 2017 will be his best season. Already 31 and turning 32 during the season, Price is at an important point in his career. He’s already established himself as a great pitcher, but his inconsistent first season in Boston coupled with another failure in the playoffs has led to questions about his ability to perform in big moments and if his best days are behind him.

For the Fenway Faithful, the hope should be that Price has an early tenure in Boston similar to Josh Beckett, who followed an inconsistent first season in Boston with an elite second season that helped lead the Red Sox to a World Series Title in 2007. This of course would hinge on Price’s health, which is a wild card at the moment.

Sale and Porcello should turn in strong performances this season, leaving Price as the factor that could push Boston over the top. Facing a rotation in the playoffs that includes all three of them pitching well is a daunting task for the rest of the American League. However, if only two of them are healthy and pitching well, it could sink the Red Sox in October if not much sooner.

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Jon Lyons is a contributor to Dirty Water Media and Dirty Water Live. He is currently working on his MBA at Endicott College and is also contributor to ESPNBoston.com and The Enterprise Newspaper. He earned his B.S. in Sport Management from Springfield College in 2014.

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