David Price’s first delivery in a big league game in more than a year was high and outside.
The next one was a ball, too.
A couple of pitches out of the strike zone never felt so good.
“It just felt good. I could feel it last night and I could feel it today,” Price said. “This morning when I woke up, I was excited. [I was] antsy while I was at the field. I just felt good to get back out there.”
Price, who declined to play in the regular season last year and last pitched in a game on March 7, 2020, threw 11 pitches -- six for strikes -- in the fourth inning in his Cactus League debut in the Dodgers' 8-0 victory against the White Sox on Monday. The veteran retired the first batter he faced, Tim Anderson, on a ground ball and struck out the next hitter, Luis Robert. José Abreu popped out for the third out.
After the outing, Price said he was hoping his fastball would hit 92 mph. He touched 94 mph. He added that he feels like he can be effective with a fastball in the 91-93 mph range in 2021. The left-hander expects to be ready to start the regular season in the rotation with a pitch count in the 80-90 range, if that’s what the club needs from him.
“Right before we signed Trevor [Bauer], I reached out to [Dodgers president of baseball operations] Andrew [Friedman] and said, ‘If it happens, I'm willing to do whatever you guys need me to do. That's not a problem for me,'” Price said. “'So, just keep me in the loop. And let me know and I'll be ready for whatever.’”
It’s too early to tell if Price will pitch in the starting rotation or out of the bullpen. For now, the focus is on building up his pitch count. Price is attempting to join a loaded staff of starters that already features Bauer, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Julio Urías.
“I can see him pitching in any role that we have for him and David, being the pro and the teammate that he is, also voiced that that whatever role that we see is best for the Dodgers in 2021 is what he wants to do,” manager Dave Roberts said before Monday’s game. “So that’s just a credit to him, but our job still is to build him up for whatever potentially could happen and continue to give us some options.”
Roberts advised not to read too much into Price’s number of pitches or lack thereof, especially this early in spring. Price will likely pitch two innings in his next outing and then three the next, the manager said.
“The goal isn't to get any particular starter to 100 pitches, there's really no set number,” Roberts said. “Like I said from the very beginning, we have seven, eight starters and we're going to build those guys up. And then whatever that looks like, and they all might be a little bit different, but we still see it from that same lens.”
Urías, who is competing against Gonsolin and May for the fifth spot in the rotation, retired all nine hitters he faced in a crisp 26-pitch outing.
He needed four pitches to get out of the first inning Monday in less than two minutes, then waited 25 minutes while his team hit to get back on the mound again. He needed only eight pitches to get out of the second. His pitch count was so low they sent him out for another inning.
“I felt great out there,” the left-handed pitcher said in Spanish. “I was able to make some adjustments from my last outing and used what we have been working on for the last week. I feel great, physically and mentally.”
Urías had plenty of help Monday. Nine of the Dodgers’ first 12 hitters reached base, highlighted by a three-run home run by Corey Seager in the second that put his team ahead, 6-0.
The Dodgers aren’t ready to say Joe Kelly will be ready for the start of the season. But they are not ready to say he won’t be.
“It’s kind of day to day with his throwing program, and we still have to see him in Major League games before we can give him the green light,” Roberts said. “I think that’s what Joe would expect as well.”
Kelly, who is dealing with an undisclosed injury, has thrown a few bullpens. It’s uncertain when he will make his Cactus League debut.
“Things have been pushed back, but I just don't want to put any restrictions or expectations right now as far as him breaking camp with us,” Roberts said.