GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After not pitching in 2020, Dodgers left-hander David Price spent most of last Spring Training trying to regain his form. The conversation around him was consistently about his workload and how sharp he would be after a long layoff.
But as he arrived at Spring Training last week, Price feels like he’s in a more familiar spot. He’s no longer worried about limiting his workload. Now it’s just about staying healthy and getting himself physically and mentally ready for another long season.
“I had a normal offseason and kind of knew how to handle that in a little bit better way than a layoff that was a year or more,” Price said. “Body feels good, arm feels good, just taking it day by day.”
Because of how he feels entering spring, one thing Price hasn’t given much thought is if this would be his last season on a big league mound. Price, who turns 37 in August and is in the last year of a seven-year, $217 million deal he signed with the Red Sox before the 2016 season, said his decision to ultimately retire -- whenever that will be -- will come down to his overall health and conversations with his family.
“I don’t view this as my last year,” Price said. “I think it all depends how your body feels and where you are mentally with everything that’s going on in your life. I think it’s probably different for everyone. I mean, you just saw Tom Brady retire and then come back two weeks later. I think you’ll know.”
Instead of retirement, he said his focus is on trying to help the Dodgers win a second World Series title in three years. He wasn’t around for the 2020 title. He would love to not only be part of another title team this season, but play an integral role on the team.
“I’m here to prove myself,” Price said. “I haven’t thrown my best baseball for the Dodgers, and that is something I look forward to doing. I want to earn it. I don’t want to be given anything. I want to go out there and I want to earn it.”
Last season, Price went 5-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 39 appearances (11 starts). He began the season in the bullpen but was needed in the rotation once injuries began to pile up. As he began to regain his form, he suffered a freak hamstring injury as he came off the mound.
Upon returning, Price struggled at times. His spin rates were down significantly and he struggled to miss bats. His inability to get swings and misses kept him off the Dodgers’ initial postseason rosters.
But now that he feels he knocked off some rust in ‘21, Price thinks he’s set up to succeed as he enters his 14th year in the league.
“This is a game I’ve put a lot of years into, a lot of hard work,” Price said. “To not go out there and get the results I expect to get, that’s always disheartening. I want to be able to do that this year and have fun with it.”
With the Dodgers’ thin rotation, Price will get plenty of chances to earn his spot. Los Angeles could use his help and experience. Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw are the only pitchers that have a guaranteed spot in the rotation this spring, assuming they all stay healthy. Andrew Heaney, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason, appears to be on track to be the fourth starter.
That leaves Tony Gonsolin, Andre Jackson, Mitch White and Price as the other realistic options to round out the rotation. Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave through March 19 and his status moving forward is still unclear as Major League Baseball continues its investigation.
The Dodgers could add a starter via free agency or trade over the next three weeks. But as of now, Price could be their best option to round out the rotation. A lot will depend on his performance. He still believes he has a lot left in the tank.
“I’m confident in David in any role,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Just the stroke this spring is a grade and a half better than it was coming into last spring. I think he’s healthy and expect him to be even better than he was last year.”