CHICAGO -- The linescore in David Price's return to action on Monday didn't mean nearly as much as two words he said with conviction during his postgame media briefing.
"I'm back," Price said after going five innings and taking a no decision in a 5-4 loss to the White Sox.
Price didn't simply mean he was back in the rotation. He meant he was back in the sense of having complete confidence in the left elbow he strained on Feb. 28.
The start Price had against the White Sox wasn't exactly a masterpiece (2 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts), but it was quite meaningful to both the pitcher and his team.
• Price thrilled to be back and so are Red Sox
"That's fun, just to get back out there in that type of environment," Price said. "You can't simulate it anywhere else, other than the big leagues. I enjoyed it.
"It felt good, just to be out there with my teammates, my brothers. That's why you play the game -- to have that feeling. There's nothing else that gives you that, golf or whatever else you do to compete. You can't replicate the feeling you have out there in a big league game, so I felt good."
The radar gun proves that Price's words weren't just lip service. Of the 31 four-seam fastballs Price threw, the average velocity was 94.6 mph. He topped out at 96.7. Overall, Price threw 88 pitches.
"Honestly, I don't think I throw a single pitch at 99 percent," said Price. "Everything's 100 percent. I haven't gotten to that point in my career yet where I taper off of certain pitches. My health is not in my mind. I feel healthy. Just go out there and get better."
Things look a lot better for the 27-23 Red Sox with Price back in the fold to join a rotation that also includes Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and Thomas Pomeranz.
"Adding a David Price to your rotation is clearly a positive, and he came out of today feeling good about himself physically, and as we continue, we'll take some time to stretch him out and keep building him, but David's return is a key to us," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Price was far better in this outing than in his two-start Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket, when he gave up 12 hits and 9 runs (6 earned) in just 5 2/3 innings.
"Health-wise, my two rehab outings, the amount of pitches I threw in a short amount of time, you can't do that and then bounce back in the way that I did after both rehab games and not be healthy," said Price. "There's no doubt in my mind where I stand right now, health-wise. It was good to go out there and feel as good as I did."
His Monday return started auspiciously. Price needed just 14 pitches to complete the first inning, and he threw a 95.3-mph heater to get Jose Abreu to ground out to end that 1-2-3 frame.
Price's toughest inning was the third, when he issued back-to-back walks and then gave up a three-run homer to Melky Cabrera.
"Yeah, I was trying to go two-seam down and away, I just yanked it middle-in," said Price. "It's definitely a step in the right direction. I felt good. Just command the baseball a little bit better with my fastball, and I think things will take off for me."
Price ended his afternoon by getting a big out against Cabrera in the fifth.
With runners at the corners and one out, Cabrera hit a hot shot toward the hole at short, and Xander Bogaerts made a terrific play on it. Not only did Bogaerts cleanly snag a rocket that Statcast™ registered at 102.2 mph, but he also started a nifty 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
"He was today the David Price he always is. He had good fastball command today, and he's a very good pitcher," said Cabrera.
Up next for Price will be a matchup with the Orioles on Saturday at Camden Yards.
"I don't care who I'm facing, it's just good to be able to be out there and compete," said Price. "I haven't been able to do that in eight months now. To get out there and do what I have a passion for, what I love, that's why you do it."