CHICAGO — It’s a start, literally and figuratively.
David Price showed some great velocity in his 2017 Red Sox debut Monday afternoon, hitting 97 mph — heat he didn’t have last year. At times, the pitcher the Sox badly need to return to form flashed high-level effectiveness as well.
MORE RED SOX-WHITE SOX
What everyone expected would be off in Price's first start back, his command, was indeed shaky, considering he allowed more runs (three) than hits (two) in a no-decision as the White Sox won, 5-4. But Price wasn’t expected to be in tip-top form, and he did a decent job overall.
"It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Price said, accurately. “I felt good. Just command the baseball a little bit better with my fastball and I think things will take off for me."
The lefty’s five-inning performance against the White Sox came almost exactly three months after he first felt elbow soreness during spring training. He exited with the Red Sox ahead 4-3, and all of the runs he allowed came on a home run from Melky Cabrera in the third inning.
Price lost the chance at a win when Chicago scored twice off Matt Barnes in the seventh. He might have been a little ahead of himself after the game when he declared himself back, but, in a literal sense, Price indeed has returned.
“After the fifth, I still felt strong. I felt strong in the fifth,” Price said. “After that inning, I still felt really good. I didn’t feel like my stuff changed all that much throughout the game. I’m back.”
After the game, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager John Farrell both came over to congratulate Price on his effort.
“It felt good, just to be out there with my teammates, my brothers,” Price said. “That’s why you play the game — to have that feeling. There’s nothing else that gives you that, golf or whatever else you do to compete. You can’t replicate the feeling you have out there in a big-league game so I felt good.”
Cabrera’s shot to left put the White Sox ahead 3-1 at the time. Price walked only two batters on the day — but they happened to be the two hitters in front of Cabrera.
The walk started with the No. 9 hitter, Adam Engel. Tim Anderson, who had drawn just four walks in 181 plate appearances entering the day, got a free pass as well.
But besides the Cabrera homer on a first-pitch fastball that was middle-in, the only other hit Price allowed was a shallow bloop single to center field.
Price finished with four strikeouts, including the first batter he faced on the day, Anderson.
His command issues were nonetheless clear. Price hit two batters to begin his final frame, setting up a fine play for Deven Marrero to record a force out at second before Xander Bogaerts started an inning-ending double play with a fantastic dive, bailing Price out of the first-and-third jam with one out.
With 88 pitches and 58 strikes, Price was more efficient than he was in two rehab outings at Triple-A Pawtucket, and he didn’t get rocked.
But he also wasn’t as efficient as the Red Sox will need him to be.
Price was pitching in a calm, pleasant environment (clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, low humidity) that might actually have been more comfortable than the colder clime Price faced in Pawtucket -- where both the fans and temperatures were chilly.
The Red Sox were aggressive bringing Price back so quickly, and set themselves up for a second guess if something went wrong. But Price preserved the second of two leads his offense gave him and didn’t let the game get out of hand.
“Health-wise, my two rehab outings, the amount of pitches I threw in a short amount of time, you can’t do that and then bounce back in the way that I did after both rehab games and not be healthy,” Price said. “There’s no doubt in my mind where I stand right now health-wise. It was good to go out there and feel as good as I did.”
After the Cabrera homer put the White Sox up two, the Red Sox answered immediately in the top of the fourth to tie at 3-3.
The argument that Price did better than anyone else would have in his place is a fair one, considering John Farrell and co. slated Price to pitch Monday before they watched Brian Johnson’s complete-game shutout.
The bigger question was always about what was best for Price’s future, and Monday looks like something he can build on. He may have benefited from the adrenaline of being back in the majors.
“I don't think I throw a single pitch at 99 percent. Everything's 100 percent,” Price said. “I haven't gotten to that point in my career yet where I taper off of certain pitches. My health is not in my mind. I feel healthy. Just go out there and get better.”
Price was even diving for foul balls.
“I think if my elbow was completely blown I'd still dive for that ball,” Price said of a play he couldn't come up with as he lunged near the third-base line. “That's a play I've been dreaming about for a long time now. Me and [Chris] Sale were talking about it probably two weeks ago. It's a play you want to be able to have an opportunity to make. I think it hit the tip of my glove and rolled all the way down my body.”