FORT MYERS, Fla. -- David Price raised his left arm and bent it at the elbow, forming an "L" shape. He turned his wrist inward and outward, then straightened his arm until it was fully extended.
"It feels good," the Boston Red Sox lefty said Monday. "Kind of surprised that it's responded the way that it has. If you asked me a week ago, I'd have said I felt OK. And I feel really good right now."
And so, once again, it seems Price has dodged the proverbial bullet. Speaking publicly and to a small group of reporters for the first time in nine days, he sounded an upbeat tone after testing his left arm with light tosses against a net in a batting cage. He also reiterated his elation at not needing so much as an injection to relieve the stiff, sore feeling that cropped up in his elbow and forearm after a two-inning simulated game almost two weeks ago.
But the questions about Price's health linger. For one thing, it isn't entirely clear what was so wrong with the Red Sox's $217 million man that he jetted off to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on March 3 for an urgent consultation with Drs. James Andrews and Neal ElAttrache, two prominent orthopedic surgeons.
If Price knows, he isn't saying. But he insists he doesn't actually know.
"When they said, 'No surgery, no injection, just give it some rest,' I literally shut my brain off," Price said. "I shut it down. I just sat back on the couch, and I don't know where I went. I went to my own little happy place."
OK, so maybe Price preferred to leave the details to the medical experts, such as Red Sox athletic trainer Brad Pearson, who accompanied him to see Andrews and ElAttrache. But Price did manage to hear the doctors concur that based on the condition of his elbow, they would have recommended surgical intervention if he was younger, say, 22 or 23 years old. Because he's 31 and has dealt with similar, though not as intense, discomfort during previous spring trainings, they believe he will be able to bounce back without seeing the inside of an operating room.
Then again, it's unclear exactly what type of surgery Andrews and ElAttrache were referring to because, well, neither Price nor the Red Sox will get into specifics about his injury.
Asked about the state of his ulnar collateral ligament, the part of the elbow that is repaired via the all-too-common Tommy John surgery, he said that it "feels good to me." He added that he "couldn't diagnose" whatever caused the stiffness and "could not give you a 100 percent answer on what [the doctors] said. They used medical terms. I don't even know half of the names of the stuff in my arm."
Without knowing more about what was wrong, it's impossible to handicap the odds of it recurring. Moreover, there's no telling what sort of pitcher the Red Sox can expect to see whenever Price is ready to pitch again. He maintained that he isn't putting a timetable on such things, though he said he feels better at this point than he anticipated.
Price missed six weeks midway through the 2013 season with a strained left triceps. When he returned from the only stint he has ever had on the disabled list, the Tampa Bay Rays eased him back, keeping him on an initial pitch count. He threw 70 pitches in his first start and averaged 90 in his first six before resuming a normal workload.
Could the Red Sox take a similarly gradual approach to bringing back Price?
"That's something that we'll all get together and discuss," Price said. "You don't want a starter going out there and throwing 70 pitches. That could leave a lot of innings for your bullpen to eat up. To have to ask them to do that in the early stages of the season, that could kind of linger around for a while for those guys. That's not a position that I would want to put any of them in."
But if it means Price will be able to get through the rest of the season without incident, it's a sacrifice the Red Sox would be happy to make.
It might even leave Price with more gas in reserve for the stretch drive and the postseason. He led the league with 35 starts and 230 innings last season and has thrown more pitches (11,225) to more batters (2,992) over more innings (733 1/3) than any pitcher in the past three seasons. And perhaps you've heard that he's 0-8 in nine career playoff starts.
If only we knew more about the condition of Price's arm, maybe we would feel as confidently as he does that this episode is really behind him.
"The more wear and tear and the more pitches you throw and innings that you throw, you put yourself at a higher risk for injury, for sure. But I don’t think that’s the underlying factor," Price said. "It’s stuff that happened. As a pitcher, every pitcher in baseball, if you take an MRI, an X-ray of their arm, you’re going to see something in there. That’s normal. I’m no different."