jim davis/globe staff
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Despite all the noise and nonsense — and even though I thought he lost his mind and his manners and blew up the Red Sox season last year — I am a big believer in David Price’s talent. I think he could be Boston’s best pitcher this year. I think he could have a Cy Young season. I think he could win back the fans.
Perhaps this demonstrates some character flaw, but I just can’t quit on Price. I thought Boston folks were too tough on him when he was characterized as a failure after winning 17 games and leading the majors in innings in 2016. I was still in Price’s camp early last summer, right up until he ambushed Dennis Eckersley on the team charter, creating a loser culture of tension and joylessness.
In the spirit of starting over — on the day of the first spring training game — I approached Price in the Sox clubhouse Friday morning and asked him if we could talk a little baseball for a change. He said that would be OK.
First, the arm. The elbow. Does it feel the way it felt before those scares last season?
“It feels good,” he said. “It feels normal right now. I think coming back last year at the end, pitching the amount of times that I did — back-to-back days, three out of four days — that’s tougher than starting once every five days.’’
I pointed out that he never gave up a run in the seven games and 15⅓ innings (19 strikeouts, 4 walks) he pitched after he came back.
“Nope,’’ he said with a smile. “I was streakin’.’’
I thought the Sox should have stretched him out and made him a starter when he came back in late September. The Sox could have used him in the rotation against the Astros. All of Boston’s vaunted starters failed against Houston.
“If we’d won that series, it probably would have been discussed a little bit more,’’ said Price. “But I don’t know if I’d have had time to get ready to do it against the Astros. But I felt good.’’
I told him I think he’ll be a secret weapon this year. All the focus is on Chris Sale after his 300-strikeout season. I suggested that expectations might be reduced for Price.
“No,’’ he countered, still smiling. “I make too much money for that. I appreciate that, but that’s never going to be the case.’’
Good point. Silly me.
How was your winter, I wondered.
“It was my first offseason being a father,’’ said Price. “I think that kind of helped my elbow. My son is nine months and I always hold him with my left arm.
“Last year, when I was hurt, I couldn’t hold him in my left arm. It killed me. It felt weird holding him in my right arm, but I am holding him all day in my left arm again.
“I feel like that kind of helped strengthen my elbow and my shoulder. I didn’t have any pain or soreness when I was sitting there holding him for an extended period of time. I thought that was a very good sign.’’
Since we were rolling along pretty well here, I thought I’d turn back to the dark past of 2017 and ask what happened to last summer.
“Being hurt and going through all that, last year was different for me all around,’’ he said. “I was battling a lot of stuff and had my son, and that was a blessing, but it’s a completely life-changing thing.
“Then having an injury in a season when I felt so good coming into spring training when I was throwing the ball so well, everything kind of piled up. I know I wasn’t myself and I admitted that.
“It happened and I’m trying to move past it. If that is allowed, that will happen. If not, I will continue to discuss it whenever I’m talking to the media.’’
Did anyone try to get through to you when you were so angry about everything?
“You guys will never know what when on. Period,” said Price. “That’s the bottom line. And I don’t want to get back into it and open it all back up. Let me go throw a boring no-hitter in spring training and we can talk about that.’’
Oh, and one last thing — did you watch the Super Bowl? Did you care?
“Sure. I thought it would have been cool, three out of four for the Patriots.’’
Did you wonder why Malcolm Butler wasn’t playing?
“Yeah, I did. We talk about it around here. Dr. [Mark] Price is one of our orthopedic guys and works for the Patriots and I want to talk to him and ask him about it. That’s crazy.’’
See? Price is just like you and me. Except for the $217 million contract, of course.
It’s a new year. Let’s give him a chance.
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