Price thrilled to be back and so are Red Sox

Lefty's return boosts rotation, but another question looms

May 29th, 2017

CHICAGO -- Wouldn't you know it?

On the day that made his belated season debut for the Red Sox, left the game in the second inning with a sprained left wrist. So the defending American League East champs were whole again … for all of one inning.

That's the way 2017 has gone for John Farrell's team, which seemed to watch its mojo walk out the door when David Ortiz retired. But only the worst baseball seasons are defined by what happens between Opening Day and Memorial Day.

There's not much to be read into the three-game gap between Boston and the first-place Yankees, other than how guys like and have helped the Yankees transition from rebuilder to contender in the blink of an eye.

The difference between the East rivals was 4 1/2 games as recently as May 20. The Red Sox had won six games in a row before losing on Sunday to the Mariners, with slumbering bats awakening during that badly needed winning streak.

Assuming Pedroia's awkward collision with doesn't lead to an extended stay on the disabled list, there's a lot for Farrell and his players to feel good about.

Price spoke loudly with this proclamation on Monday, even though the White Sox grabbed the opener of the series 5-4.

"I'm back,'' he said, smiling.

Price experienced swelling and a buildup of fluid in his arm in early March, triggering concerns he could need elbow surgery. He was instead put on a regimen of rest and then light throwing and had worked patiently toward the chance to get back on the mound.

Price acquitted himself well after being activated off the disabled list to face the White Sox, allowing three runs in five innings and winding up with a no-decision.

"It felt good to be out there with my teammates, my brothers,'' said Price, who is in the second season of his seven-year deal. "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. It felt good.''

Sale's next opponent knows his best the best

Working with a 90-pitch limit, Price was effective enough in his return that Farrell didn't get any of his relievers up until after and Josh Rutledge turned an electrifying double play to get him out of the fifth inning with a 4-3 lead.

"He came out of today feeling good about himself physically,'' Farrell said. "We'll take some time to stretch him out and keep building him. David's return is a key for us.''

's three-run homer in the third inning did all of the damage against Price. The lefty from Vanderbilt gave up only two hits but wasn't especially sharp, walking two and hitting two. He left in line for the victory but the White Sox rallied against reliever Matt Barnes in the seventh inning, leaving him with a no-decision.

Price had looked like anything but his old self during two rehab starts for Triple-A Pawtucket. But you shouldn't expect a former Cy Young winner to get excited about facing the Louisville Bats and Buffalo Bisons. He needed to go against hitters like , and Cabrera to approach the feeling he had the last time he was in a Major League game, facing the Indians in the AL Division Series.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction,'' Price said. "I felt good. Just command the baseball a little bit better with my fastball, and I think things will take off for me.''

Price touched 97 mph with his fastball, which averaged 95. He got swings and misses with his changeup and curveball, and proved his fearlessness by laying out at full speed with his right arm extended in an unsuccessful attempt to catch a bunt that went foul.

"I think if my elbow is completely blown, I still dive for that ball,'' Price said. "That's a play I've been dreaming about for a long time now. Me and Chris Sale were talking about it maybe two weeks ago. That's a play you want to have the opportunity to make. I think it hit the tip of my glove and just rolled all down my body, and I wasn't able to make it.''

Spoken like a man not worried about his health.

With Price healthy, the Red Sox will look to the potentially terrific starting rotation that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski penciled in when he traded , and two others to the White Sox for Sale last December. Price points out that and make it tough from top to bottom.

"Eddie's been throwing the ball extremely well as well,'' Price said. "Big Smooth [Pomeranz] threw the ball really well his last outing. If we can all five just feed off each other, we can do some special stuff. We know how good our defense is and how well we swing the bats. If [the starters] can all hit our groove at the same time, we can win a lot of games.''

Sounds right. But what about Pedroia?