BOSTON -- Two days ago, David Price sat in the home dugout at Fenway Park and outlined his short-term goals in an interview that aired on ESPN's Wednesday Night Baseball.
"I want to get 27 outs in October," he said.
OK, so Price never specified that they had to come in the same game.
Make all the jokes you want -- and the Twittersphere that Price seems to monitor so closely was filled with them -- after the Boston Red Sox reinstated the lefty from the disabled list Thursday and announced he will pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the season. Some wiseguys cracked that $217 million doesn't buy what it once did. Others took the opportunity to cite Price's odious career postseason numbers.
But if Price's arm is as healthy as he suggested after facing hitters Wednesday in a three-inning simulated game, then he represents a legitimate enough weapon out of the bullpen to seriously wonder whether he or Cleveland Indians relief ace Andrew Miller will record more outs this October.
In revealing that Price will move to a relief role, Red Sox manager John Farrell referred to lefty Felix Doubront, a starter-turned-reliever who pitched meaningful innings out of the bullpen to help the Sox win the 2013 World Series. And then, Farrell alluded to Miller, though not by name.
"It was on full display last October the way things have evolved with more aggressive use of the bullpen," Farrell said. "Feel like David getting healthy, getting game activity under his belt is a prime candidate to be that type of guy."
Not that anyone needs a refresher, but the Indians used Miller in all sorts of situations in October. He entered as early as the fifth inning (three times) and as late as the eighth (once), but in all 10 of his postseason appearances, he pitched more than one inning and got more than three outs. Overall, Miller allowed three runs and struck out 30 batters in 19⅓ innings and was crowned MVP of the American League Championship Series.
Price has a long way to go, of course, before the Red Sox can begin to regard him as their version of Miller.
First, he must prove his left elbow is healthy. He has made two trips to the disabled list this season and hasn't pitched in a game since July 22 because of soreness in his elbow and triceps. With the minor-league season having ended, the closest Price has come to game conditions are the two simulated innings this past Saturday and the three on Wednesday.
Price also must readjust to a role he hasn't filled since 2008 when he broke into the big leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays. Then-Rays manager Joe Maddon used Price as a reliever, and Price made his mark on the postseason. Surely, Red Sox fans need not be reminded of Price's four-out save in Game 7 of the ALCS.
The Red Sox will ease him back to the mound, according to Farrell. At least for now, Farrell said he will try to give Price advanced notice before calling down to the bullpen. The Sox also will seek to avoid bringing him into a game with runners on base.
Maybe Price can even seek advice from Dennis Eckersley. Then again ...
Farrell believes "there will be some spots that will emerge naturally" to use Price. Here's one: Left-handed hitters are 11-for-54 with one extra-base hit against Price this season, and the Red Sox lack a dominant lefty reliever.
So, when Price is available to begin pitching on Sunday, he can expect to familiarize himself with Logan Morrison, Corey Dickerson, Lucas Duda or any of the Tampa Bay Rays' other lefty bats. Ditto for Orioles slugger Chris Davis next week in Baltimore. Maybe Price should just start watching video now of Houston’s Josh Reddick and Brian McCann, or Cleveland’s Jay Bruce.
After a few outings, Farrell presumably will be able to treat Price like any other reliever, at which point the Red Sox will have a clearer picture of exactly what they have.
And it could be a difference-maker.
For dramatic effect, it would have been preferable for Price to start in the postseason. He's 0-8 with a 5.74 ERA in nine career playoff starts, including a dud in Game 2 of the ALCS in Cleveland last year. In spring training, Price admitted he could go 32-0 during the regular season and it wouldn't mean anything until he wins a postseason start.
But Price simply ran out of time to rebuild his arm strength to be a starter this season. On Wednesday, Farrell said it would be "aggressive" to try to use Price in his normal role. On Thursday, he downgraded that notion to "not realistic," which he expressed in a meeting with Price.
"He recognizes the limited availability of time and to build back up, so logically this is a spot and he's accepting of the role," Farrell said. "He wants to get back and pitch. He wants to get back and compete."
At his best, Price as a reliever can be this year's Andrew Miller.
And that's no joke.