The pain was sharp and familiar. It reminded David Price where he was. It also told him he could still be the pitcher the Los Angeles Dodgers thought they had nearly 26 months ago.
Price’s quiet spring began like others have during the five-time All-Star’s 13-year career: His left elbow injured after his first live batting practice a few weeks ago, and he knew that the resumption of an old routine was underway.
“Always the elbow,” Price said. “It happens every year, since 2010. Now everything is fine – arm, elbow and shoulder.”
It was good enough to impress Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and anyone who watched Price make his first spring appearance against Cleveland on Wednesday night. The southpaw only worked one inning, but he had two strikeouts and was clocked at 93 mph.
In an abbreviated camp, it was not enough to determine his role. It reminded the Dodgers that Price is still in the game.
From starter to bullpen, Price’s role with the Dodgers has been uncertain since they acquired the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner from the Boston Red Sox in a three-team deal. which included right fielder Mookie Betts in February 2020.
Price did not pitch at all that year, retiring due to concerns over COVID-19. In 2021, he bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen with 11 starts and 28 appearances as a reliever. His overall ERA was 4.03.
He arrived at camp in mid-March ready for anything. Then Roberts mentioned him as a possible starter.
“I’m preparing that way, yeah,” said Price, who is in the final year of a seven-year, $217 million contract. “I think it would be silly of me to prepare to be a reliever if I was asked to start. So, I am preparing to be a starter until it is otherwise.
Otherwise it seems to be. Roberts anticipates his starting rotation to be Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Heaney and Tony Gonsolin. He warned that nothing is set in stone, mostly because pitchers were restricted in a camp cut short by the Major League Baseball lockout.
The Dodgers signed career starter Tyler Anderson in mid-March, just in case. As for Price, Roberts said, “I just think David, right now, isn’t an option in the sense that he’s not built. It just doesn’t seem feasible right now.
The 36-year-old southpaw could still have an immediate role, such as a relief inning at the start of the season, Roberts said, and move into multiple innings as he strengthens.
“I trust David in any role,” Roberts said. “I like his versatility. The role doesn’t matter. It’s just knowing he’s going to throw valuable innings in any role.
Cody Bellinger practiced batting Thursday on the Dodgers’ minor league side of camp. The 2019 National League MVP is 4 of 27 with 17 strikeouts this spring.
“I wouldn’t say I’m alarmed,” Roberts said. “I think ‘progress’ is the word. We need to keep connecting at bats to make him feel as comfortable as possible at the start of the season. ”
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