Mike Harrington: Price says he's right even if outing says otherwise - The Buffalo News
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Mike Harrington: Price says he's right even if outing says otherwise

The box score is something you don't study in depth when you're talking injury rehab assignments. In David Price's case, that's a good thing.

It took the $217 million man 65 pitches to get through just two innings against the Buffalo Bisons here Friday night. He couldn't get out pitches when he needed. He gave up three runs on five hits and failed to cover first in time on an infield single.

Price did strike out four and walked only one but it was a very scattershot outing, the kind that has you immediately saying the lefty needs more time. Then it was Price's turn to put his spin on things with reporters.

He couldn't have been more solid with his feelings. Frankly, it was head-scratching stuff.

"To go out there and throw 30-plus pitches in both innings and still feel the way I did walking off that mound in the second inning is good," Price said. "I felt great in both innings. Every pitch I threw, I felt good. My entire body felt good. Not just my arm. It happens. It's not the way I envisioned today going. I can still take that positive of throwing all those pitches for two innings and still feeling good."

Due to an elbow strain that has had him shut down from competitive workouts since February, this was Price's first game since last October. And no, we're not counting Sunday's simulated game off a batting tunnel mound in rainy Pawtucket as real competition. Even if the Red Sox might be.

The Bisons got a season-high crowd of 12,380 to come to the park and the team struggled operationally as much as Price did on the mound. Plenty of fans were stuck outside past the 7:05 first pitch waiting to get through the new metal detectors. The team kept the Washington Street gate closed -- a mistake -- because it's easier to funnel lined-up fans to Swan Street, which has a bigger plaza and is not close to the street.

In the team's defense, the gates opened at 5 for happy hour and, like the Sabres and Bills, fans need to stop showing up 15 minutes before game time expecting to get in. That said, I watched ballpark security from up above for a few minutes and they were moving far too slow. Remember the scene from "Bull Durham"? They need to stop lollygagging and pick up the pace.

Those stuck outside missed one of the night's signature moments as Buffalo leadoff man Jake Elmore battled Price for 15 pitches opening the bottom of the first. There's no way in his first competitive at-bat since October that Price was prepared for a 15-round, er, 15-pitch knockdown, drag-out war. But that's what he got.

The scoreboard radar gun was not working during the game, which was unfortunate since fans and a media corps that filled the press box far more than normal were interested to see how Price's stuff was translating.

Price got ahead of Elmore, 0 and 2, and couldn't finish off Buffalo's leadoff hitter, a former Triple-A all-star who came into the game batting just .209. Elmore fouled off nine two-strike pitches and eventually worked the count full before lacing what should have been a single to right-center. But the Pawtucket outfield, rendered catatonic by the long at-bat, allowed Elmore to stretch the hit into a double.

"Never had that I don't think at any level," Price said. "... That was a really good at-bat. It was tough. I made good pitches. He fouled a lot of them off, hung in there, hit a line-drive over second and got himself a double."

Price did recover with a good stretch, using 16 pitches to fan the next three Buffalo hitters. And it was a rugged piece of the lineup with top prospect Rowdy Tellez, .300-hitting Jason Leblebijian and former big-league catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia. In all, it took Price 31 pitches to get out of the first but he threw 23 strikes.

The Buffalo second was worse. White-hot catcher Raffy Lopez led off with a home run to left-center. After an out, Price gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases. Elmore followed with a two-run single to make it 3-0 before Price recovered to get Tellez on a pop-up and Leblebijian on a strikeout.

The plan had been 85-90 pitches for Price. But Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles told Price he was done after two innings. The final totals were 65 pitches (41 strikes).

"You can go out there and go six innings and 90 pitches, never get into trouble and not have to lock in on every single pitch the way I had to tonight," Price said.

Price knew, of course, that Boles wasn't the one making the call. Pretty sure Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski and manager John Farrell were involved in that decision with the club out in Oakland playing a late affair.

"There were probably a couple other people that called and said that," Price said of the end of his night. "I do what I'm told. I'm a pawn in this game. It's bigger than me. I've got to do as I'm told. If I don't like it, pitch better."

The Sox are hoping Price is ready to pitch Wednesday in Fenway Park against red-hot Texas. They need him, with a rotation that has only Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez going well. We'll see.

"You have to take this process one day at a time," Price said. "Feeling the way I feel right now, I don't expect anything to flare up or bother me the next 4-5 days. Feeling the way I feel right now, you don't feel this way if you're hurt."

Maybe Price's good spirits were from the birth of his son, Xavier, who was induced on Wednesday. He went home Friday morning and Price flew into Buffalo for his start.

"It was a special moment," he said. "In my eyes, it was still a good day. I got to do what I love, got to take my son home and now I'm going back."

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