Red Sox have reason to feel confident about post-injury David Price

CHICAGO -- Wondering how Boston Red Sox lefty David Price felt Monday near the end of his first start in almost eight months?

Go back and rewatch the fifth inning. After back-to-back hit by pitches to Kevan Smith and Adam Engel -- the Nos. 8 and 9 batters in the Chicago White Sox's order -- Price uncorked a 94 mph fastball to Tim Anderson, who popped up a bunt into foul territory. Price sprinted across the third-base line and dove, every inch of his 6-foot-5 frame extended to catch a ball that tipped off the heel of his glove.

Elbow strain? What elbow strain?

"I think if my elbow was completely blown out, I'd still dive for that ball," Price said later, after reliever Matt Barnes gave up two runs in the seventh inning of a 5-4 Red Sox loss. "That's a play I've been dreaming about for a long time now. Me and [Chris] Sale were talking about it probably two weeks ago. It's a play you want to be able to have an opportunity to make."

Truth is Price has been waiting since the first week of March for the opportunity to merely pitch. And when he jetted off to the NFL scouting combine to have his left elbow examined by two prominent orthopedic surgeons, he wasn't sure when he would be able to take the mound again.

Not only did Price make it back for a Memorial Day matinee, but he delivered a start that should leave the Red Sox feeling confident he can help them this season, a proposition that wasn't always a given.

Price had bouts of control problems, which was to be expected considering he made only two minor league rehab starts and wasn't sharp in either. In addition to the hit batters, Price issued back-to-back, one-out walks to Engel and Anderson in the third inning, then gave up a three-run homer to Melky Cabrera on a 95 mph fastball that caught too much of the plate.

But for those who said Price needed another Triple-A tune-up, that the Red Sox were rushing him back unnecessarily, Price offered proof that he would only have been wasting bullets by staying in the minors.

"Everything today was kind of self-induced," Price said of the walks. "As much as that stinks, it's better than going out there and just getting hit all over the place and giving up hard-hit balls left and right. That wasn't the case today."

Price said he felt "strong" in the fifth inning, even as his pitch count climbed to 88. The Red Sox weren't going to allow Price to throw more than 90 pitches in his first start back, a restriction that will be lifted as he continues to build arm strength.

Regardless, Price left with a one-run lead, having gotten Cabrera to ground into a double play to end the fifth. Manager John Farrell described Price's outing as "clearly a positive," and for once, it was difficult to argue.

By his own admission, Price was inconsistent last season, his first year with the Red Sox. Expectations won't be any lower now that the $217 million man is back in the rotation. But it's also easier to see Price sliding in behind Rick Porcello and Sale, and with 24-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez emerging as a legitimate mid-rotation starter with top-of-the-rotation upside.

"If we can, all five, just feed off one another, I think we can do some special stuff," Price said. "We know how good our defense is and how well we swing the bats. If the starters can all hit our groove kind of at the same time, I think we can win a lot of games."

At the very least, Price proved on Monday that he's finally healthy and capable of doing his part.