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Price eyeing big picture after spotless debut

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When it comes to his comeback season, which officially starts in two weeks, David Price is thinking big.

"Very excited," said Price. "I expect to go out there and be great. All my teammates expect that of me and I expect that of myself as well."

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When it comes to his comeback season, which officially starts in two weeks, David Price is thinking big.

"Very excited," said Price. "I expect to go out there and be great. All my teammates expect that of me and I expect that of myself as well."

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The lefty dazzled over four scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday at JetBlue Park. Helping the Red Sox to a 7-5 victory over the Blue Jays, Price allowed a hit and a walk while striking out four. Of Price's 55 pitches, 34 were for strikes.

"He was great," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "From the dugout, it looked like his misses were just by an inch. He was on target. Good tempo and very impressive for his first outing in a real environment, not a controlled one. Physically, he looks like he's right where he has to be, and now we move forward."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The sharpness of all four of Price's pitches was evident to anyone who watched, but not surprising to the man who was throwing them.

Though this was Price's first Grapefruit League game, he had already thrown two simulated games and had worked exhaustively in the offseason to get to this point, feeling as rejuvenated as he does.

His left elbow -- the one that limited him to 11 starts and two prolonged stints on the disabled list in 2017 -- is fully healthy. And Price feels more proof of that every time he throws.

"I've never been able to throw four pitches and have a four-pitch mix on March 15," said Price. "I've never been this far along in Spring Training even though I've only thrown in one game. I'm excited about that."

Only throwing in one game so far has nothing to do with his elbow. It had everything to do with the well-chronicled program that pitching coach Dana LeVangie set up in conjunction with Cora for all of the starting pitchers to be scaled back in terms of Spring Training games while doing most of the heavy lifting during side sessions.

Price credits the program for how strong and precise he feels at this point of camp.

"Just getting together and talking about it before Spring Training was even a month away, talking about how slow we were going to take it and how weren't going to mix in everything until after a lot of bullpens, it's paid off," Price said.

The payoff for the Red Sox if Price can be "great" would be enormous. Keep in mind that this is a team that already has another ace in Chris Sale in the rotation. And it is a team that somehow won 93 games with Price's contributions limited to 74 2/3 innings during the regular season and 6 2/3 dominant relief innings in the postseason last year.

What does Price envision when he says "great"?

"Consistency," Price said. "If I'm consistent, I know my numbers will be there at the end of the year, and I know that that day that I pitch we're going to win more games than we lose. So that's what I want. I want the Red Sox to win on my day. That's what I'm worried about."

If you want a statistical glimpse of what Price has been when "great", go back to 2015, when he went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA for the Tigers and Blue Jays. Or look at 2012, when he was 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA for the Rays and won the American League Cy Young Award.

The Red Sox haven't seen that kind of greatness from Price since he signed prior to the 2016 season, but he could be well positioned to recapture it now. In the meantime, Price will savor the modest steps like the one that took place Thursday.

"It's good," Price said. "It's one thing to get out there and throw extended bullpens or throw against our Minor Leaguers, but to get out there, have the national anthem and see guys with different colored jerseys, it's what it's about."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, David Price