For Red Sox’ David Price, a sense of relief
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The ability to throw a baseball 96 miles per hour with occasional flicks of the wrist to make it curve, tail, or sink requires a certain degree of faith that your arm is up to a challenge for which it was not created.
For Red Sox pitcher David Price, that belief was restored in a hotel suite in Indiana.
It was there on Friday that two of the nation’s top orthopedic surgeons told Price that his injured left elbow was “unique” and he could return to the mound when he feels up to it. Given what have been daily improvements in his condition, Price suspects that will not take long.
“Everything they said, honestly, couldn’t have went any better, really. It was almost like I paid them to tell me the stuff I wanted to hear,” Price said on Saturday.
Price threw 38 pitches over two innings in a simulated game last Tuesday and felt unusual soreness the next morning. The swelling was such that the Sox were concerned he had the kind of injury that would require surgery.
“The stiffness kind of set in that night. Came in the next morning and felt like my arm wouldn’t move,” Price said.
Price was given an MRI. At the same time, the Red Sox contacted Drs. James Andrews and Neal ElAttrache and arranged for them to examine Price. Both were in Indianapolis working for teams at the NFL Combine.
Price flew to Indiana on Thursday night with Red Sox head athletic trainer Brad Pearson and saw the doctors together at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis, also attended the meeting.
The Marriott overlooks the Triple A ballpark in Indianapolis, Victory Field. Price had pitched there in 2008.
Industry sources told the Globe that Price was diagnosed with a mild strain of a flexor muscle and some bone spurs. Manager John Farrell said the plan was to reevaluate Price’s condition in seven days.
“[Andrews and ElAttrache] expected it to be a lot worse than what it was. That was both of them. They said it multiple times; we expected this to be a lot worse than what it really is,” Price said.
As to the unique qualities of his arm, Price said he has heard that before.
“They were like, ‘Your elbow is extremely unique. It’s found a way to kind of heal itself.’ It’s pretty neat, bionic elbow,” he said.
The question now is when Price will be able to throw and for how long he will be out.
It seems likely Price will start the season on the disabled list and miss at least a few starts. But president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the Sox haven’t looked ahead.
“We’ve been careful not to get into that. That’s not the most important part. The most important part is to get him throwing again,” he said.
Andrews and ElAttrache recommended that Price decide what comes next.
“That was the thing I liked the most that they said. This was on me,” he said. “This was on my timetable, on my program. I’ll know when I feel good enough to go out there and throw a baseball. I’ll know when I need to back it down or whatever I need to do. I just need to listen to my body.”
What he is hearing now is encouraging.
“If I felt the way that I felt yesterday to right now, it’s probably something I wouldn’t even mention. It’s just the normal aches and pains of spring training,” Price said.
Because of the travel, Price estimated he went 40 hours without treatment, ice, or anti-inflammatory drugs. But he still made progress.
“Nothing was in my system and for it still to improve the way that it has, that’s a very good sign,” he said.
Price cautioned that further discussions would be needed if he doesn’t continue to improve. But he doesn’t believe it will get to that point.
“We have a longer spring training this year; it kind of works in our favor. I’m very confident I’ll be back out there,” he said.
For the Red Sox, who signed the 31-year-old Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract before last season, it was an unsettling few days that, for now, ended well.
“Oh, sure. Any time you have any of your guys with a sore elbow, even if you’re hopeful, it’s a relief when you hear that news,” Dombrowski said.
In what can’t be comforting news for the Sox, Price revealed that he feels a “pop” in his elbow every spring. He considers it a positive occurrence.
“Whenever that happens, I’m good to go,” he said. “It’s something I always tell the trainers every spring training, I’m just waiting for that pop. Whenever that pop happens, I’m ready to go.”
The pop came while he was warming up on Tuesday, then he pitched well. Until the next day, Price felt spring training was about perfect.
“Getting back to being on top of that baseball, throwing the baseball downhill. Having that good angle. Stuff like that. I felt good. I’ve been crisp,” he said.
“Throwing strikes. It was easy again. I didn’t have to work too hard just to throw a strike. I threw my fastball where I wanted to.”
Saturday was the first time Price has spoken to reporters since Tuesday. As he stood in front of his locker, he was relaxed.
“It’s definitely a sigh of relief and ready to go,” Price said.