NICK CAFARDO I ON BASEBALL
FORT MYERS, Fla. — In David Price’s mind there’s a clean slate. He wants to return to being one of the top starting pitchers in baseball, and he wants to win Red Sox fans over again with his performance.
Price, who was one of the first players to work out at JetBlue Park this year (he lives in Naples), said he is excited about how his arm and elbow feel, and that his relief role in the playoffs assured him that he is healthy again.
Price also said he tried to put the incident with Dennis Eckersley last year to bed and hadn’t thought about it until it was brought up in this interview.
“I tried last year,” Price said of trying to rectify the situation with Eckersley, who had been confronted by Price after criticizing the performance of Eduardo Rodriguez on a NESN telecast.
“We had set up a meeting and [Eckersley] nixed that,” said Price. “I tried. I stood in the locker room in front of [the media] and said I could have handled things differently. I wish I would have. That was that. I haven’t thought about that this offseason and haven’t put any thought into it until now.”
There was no doubt that details of the incident angered fans because of Eckersley’s popularity in Boston.
“If I go out there and pitch well, I’ll get the fans back,” said Price. “I can do whatever I want off the field, but if I go out and pitch the way I’m capable of pitching, they won’t care.”
While Price said he’ll take it easier during camp because of last season’s arm problems, “No doubt I’ll be ready to go in Tampa [where the Red Sox open the season].
“I feel strong in both [the elbow and arm]. I had a good offseason. I felt relaxed spending time with family, and it feels good. I started throwing earlier than normal but taking it slow this offseason. It’s felt good up to this point. To go out there and not have pain or discomfort and to be able to throw the volume that I threw in a role I wasn’t familiar with, that let me know that my elbow was a lot better than I thought at the time. It was good to be able to do that.”
Price said he’ll take a similar approach to teammate Chris Sale, in that both will try to hold back more in spring training to preserve their arms.
“You get out there and sometimes you start to get competitive too soon,” said Price. “I can hold true to that until that first BP. But then you got a hitter in there and there’s someone behind the cage holding a radar gun and the writers are all there watching, if someone hits a home run it’s going to be talked about. Just out of pure competitiveness you want to pitch well and see where you’re at. That’s not the time to see where you’re at. For me, when I throw my first BP, that’s when I always take two steps back. It puts me in a hole for two or three weeks. So, I’m taking that a lot slower and making sure you’re ready to go.”
We remember last year, when Sale came out and threw 97 miles per hour in his first spring training game.
“This is a marathon and it’s not a sprint,” Price said. “Tough for Sale coming in from a new organization.”
Price felt he dodged a bullet when he was told he didn’t need surgery.
“From what happened in spring training, probably so,” he said. “I couldn’t bend my arm. I couldn’t do anything. Hard to sleep. I thought for sure that I did need surgery. To hear [Dr. James] Andrews and [Dr. Neal] ElAttrache tell me the exact opposite, I was floored. It wasn’t what I expected to hear. To hear those two guys, who have seen the amount of elbows and arms that they’ve seen, and Andrew being a guy who is very familiar with me. I saw him every spring training when I was in Tampa, so for him to know my arm and how it operates and to hear him say that was a sigh of relief.”
Asked if he could have been a starter rather than a reliever in the postseason, Price said, “I think so. I don’t know the total amount of pitches I threw in a two- or three-day span, but that’s tougher than throwing 75 or 90 pitches in a start. I think I could have.”
Asked if he made his case to the team to start, Price said, “They knew I wanted to. If we’d have won another game or advanced, we would have talked about it.”
Price said he is excited about new manager Alex Cora and how well he seems to relate to players.
“He came to Fort Myers and he met Jackie Bradley, Sandy Leon, Chris [Sale], and myself, and we had lunch with him,” said Price. “He feels like one of the guys. I had a manager like that in Tampa in Joe Maddon. He relates to everybody. Easy to talk to. I like Alex. I guess it’s to be determined manager-wise and stuff like that, but I think he’s going to great.”
Price is looking forward to forming a dynamic duo with Sale.
“That would be awesome, and [Rick Porcello] as well,” said Price. “He had a down year last year, but he’s determined to be the guy he was in 2016. All the strides Drew [Pomeranz] — Big Smooth — made. Eddie [Rodriguez] has been feeling good. If we’re all healthy and not even pitching our best, we can do some really good things.”
Price talked about the team possibly getting another hitter. He was a teammate of J.D. Martinez in Detroit, and he said he has had at least two conversations with Martinez about coming Boston.
“I think everybody would take another bat,” said Price. “It’s like another arm. I don’t think you can ever have too many bats or too many arms. I like the guys we have right now. With our lineup . . . it’s a very strong lineup. If we get another bat great, if not, we’re a confident group.”
Price is impressed with the Yankees’ offseason moves, but he feels the Red Sox are still the team to beat based on their two straight division titles.
“That’s kind of what you expect them to do,” said Price. “You expect them to make those big splashes and to have the minor league system they have, that’s what makes it special. They still have all the guys in the minors and still will be able to make deals. There’s probably not a guy in baseball they can’t trade for because of what they have in their minor league system.”
Price said he hasn’t once thought about the opt-out clause in his contract, which he can exercise after the 2018 season. He refuted the notion that he doesn’t like Boston.
“I came here to win,” said Price. “We need to take it two steps further than we have the last two years and build something more special. I want to win here.”
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