KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The news wasn’t perfect. David Price is likely to start the season on the disabled list and could miss a few starts for the Red Sox. But given the alternative, Friday was a cause for celebration.
Price will not need surgery on his left elbow, the decision coming from orthopedic surgeons James Andrews and Neal ElAttrache after examinations held at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Instead Price will be shut down for at least a week to get treatment and anti-inflammatory medication. He will be back at Red Sox camp on Saturday.
“We definitely feel it’s the best-case scenario in light of him still having to miss some time, and there’s no timetable for his return yet,” manager John Farrell said. “But, still, we’ve got a definitive plan going forward and an encouraging one.”
Andrews and ElAttrache did not recommend any injections. For pitchers with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, an injection of platelet-rich plasma is often recommended in an attempt to stave off Tommy John surgery.
Farrell said Price would be treated for 7-10 days then reevaluated.
“A very positive exam given some of the concern a couple of days ago,” Farrell said.
With the regular season starting on April 3, Price does not have time to make the necessary five or six starts to build up arm strength. But he could be ready by mid-April after a short stay on the disabled list.
Surgery would have put Price out for the entire season and perhaps a month or two into 2018.
The Red Sox should have the starter depth to handle his absence. Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright were competing for two rotation spots. Now all three could land on the Opening Day roster.
Rodriguez made his first spring training start on Thursday. Pomeranz and Wright should get started next week.
Price experienced pain and swelling in his elbow on Wednesday, a day after he threw two innings in a simulated game. The Sox immediately had an MRI taken.
But within a day, Price started to feel better and was optimistic he did not have a serious injury.
“Even talking with David on his way [to Indianapolis], he felt with each passing hour he was becoming more free,” Farrell said. “As we talked about, him experiencing this type of forearm issue in spring training, it may be a little bit more intensified this year. But, still, it’s kind of the spring training arm that he goes through.”
Price was 17-9 with a 3.99 earned run average in 35 starts last season and led the majors with 230 innings. That was the first season of a record seven-year, $217 million deal.
Price has long pitched with an uncomplicated, low-stress delivery and only once in his career had experienced a significant arm issue, that coming in 2013 when he strained a triceps muscle.
“You look at the number of innings he’s pitched over the course of his career and maybe in the last three years, I think it’s the most in baseball. He’s been durable. This was unexpected,” Farrell said.
Since 2010, Price leads the majors with 1,529⅓ innings. In the last three years, Price has pitched in 107 games and thrown 733⅓ innings when counting the postseason. The only pitcher close to that workload is San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, who threw 729 innings over 108 games.
Price left it to the Red Sox to reveal his diagnosis. But he did leave a hint of good news on Twitter and joked that he ran the 40-yard dash at the Combine.
“Indy is a little chilly right now so I'm going to head back to Fort Myers! My 40 time was 4.11,” he wrote.