CLEVELAND -- Mind over matter. That's what David Price had said. The conditions, Price knew going into his first official start as a member of the Boston Red Sox, would be frigid, but so would the response from the Boston faithful if he stepped on that Progressive Field mound and
CLEVELAND -- Mind over matter. That's what David Price had said. The conditions, Price knew going into his first official start as a member of the Boston Red Sox, would be frigid, but so would the response from the Boston faithful if he stepped on that Progressive Field mound and got shelled.
So Price welcomed the cold -- 34 degrees at first pitch, for the record -- the same way he welcomes the spotlight and the expectations that come with a $217 million contract in what very well might be baseball's most unforgiving market.
"That's just how he is," teammate Mookie Betts said. "He's got a dominant personality. And on the mound, it shows."
It certainly showed Tuesday. Opposite a fellow American League Cy Young Award winner in Corey Kluber and in less-than-idyllic conditions, Price guided the Red Sox on their way in an idyllic opener -- a 6-2 victory in which young Betts' emerging power, David Ortiz's last first blast and Craig Kimbrel's electric ninth supported an unsurprisingly strong first impression from the newly added ace.
Price came out with three no-hit innings, then pitched through heavy traffic in a two-run fourth that could have unraveled into much more, then went back to shutdown mode for his final two innings of work. All told, he gave up the two runs on five hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts. Price became the first Red Sox hurler to notch a double-digit K total in his team debut since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007.
"You've got to focus on the task at hand," Price said. "That's what I was able to do."
There will be time to settle into the season and more properly assess pitch selection (Price was noticeably less fastball-reliant as the outing wore on) and the minutiae of the data.
For now, the key takeaway was the usual cool and calm Price displayed both in the specifics of this start and in the context of having it pushed back a day by wintry conditions. The truth is, Tuesday's weather wasn't any more baseball-worthy than Monday's, save for the sun's all-too-deceptive presence in the cloudless sky.
"This could be the type of weather you're playing in at the end of September and early October," Price had previously said of pitching in such bone-chilling environments. "So you just have to put mind over matter."
The mind and the matter have been known to play tricks on even the elites, Price included. He got whacked by the Yankees in an eight-run outburst in 38-degree weather just about a year ago while still with the Tigers, and he spent the aftermath bemoaning his inability to rise to the occasion. Price had vowed to get his revenge here on the unsuspecting Indians, and even though he made a two-strike mistake to Francisco Lindor to lead off the two-run fourth and fought a short-sleeved Mike Napoli through a particularly exhausting 11-pitch at-bat, you can safely say the mission was accomplished.
But this attitude toward temperature is a little window into Price's personality. Greatness is his expectation, no matter what distractions -- be it weather or media or fans -- are placed in front of him.
Ask Carl Crawford or Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez about playing in Boston. It's different. But so is David Price.
"There's a lot of confidence there," Boston pitching coach Carl Willis said. "But with that confidence, there's no taking anything for granted. He's constantly working, constantly watching the game. He came in [Monday], prior to cancellation, and was going through the reports, even though he's faced these guys numerous times and has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do. He's going to pay attention to the details."
The details will be fascinating to watch unfold in Price's age-30 season. He entered it with 1,441 2/3 regular-season innings to his name, and evolution is inevitable. Last season saw Price utilize a five-pitch mix, with four pitches -- the four-seamer, sinker, changeup and cutter -- each used at least 15 percent of the time. He continued a five-year trend of increasing his changeup usage, turning to that offspeed offering more than 20 percent of the time, and he also mixed in a curveball in nearly 9 percent of his pitches.
The deepening of this repertoire is what has allowed Price to maintain a high strike percentage, getting his whiffs and limiting his walks. He did it again Tuesday, throwing 71 of his 103 pitches for strikes and getting 12 swings and misses.
"He threw more breaking balls last year," Willis said, "and you might see that continue. But at that this point, it's been about getting his strengths going and being a guy who can make adjustments as he sees fit."
Price's least-tangible but arguably most important strength is his belief that he belongs on the big stage, and he had 217 million reasons to leap onto one of baseball's biggest, despite the pitfalls that can come with such a target. This, too, is a case of mind over matter, of inner confidence overcoming conditions.
"I think he's winning before guys even step into the box," said Betts, "because they know who's on the mound. With his confidence, that just makes him that much better."
Price's confidence served him well in conditions unfit for this sport, conditions Price hopes to encounter again come October. With Betts' flash at the plate and in the field and with Big Papi's fitting first highlight of the farewell tour, the Red Sox took one very small step toward reacquainting themselves with that part of the calendar.
But the central figure of a fine first day was the ace whose dominant personality could not be cooled.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.