BOSTON -- Ready or not, here comes David Price.
Despite making only two minor league rehab starts -- and failing to get out of the fourth inning in either -- Price will come off the disabled list and make his season debut for the Boston Red Sox on Monday afternoon in Chicago in the opener of a three-game series against the White Sox, manager John Farrell announced Thursday.
"I'm excited just to be back here," Price said. "It's not a better feeling. You can't replicate it anywhere else. To be back here with my teammates, it's a good feeling."
Price has been sidelined since Feb. 28, when he felt stiffness in his left elbow during a simulated game. He jetted to the NFL combine in Indianapolis to see a pair of prominent orthopedic surgeons, but neither Dr. James Andrews nor Dr. Neal ElAttrache recommended surgery.
After progressing through bullpen sessions and simulated games, Price threw 65 pitches and gave up three runs in only two innings of a Triple-A game last Friday night, then expended 89 pitches and gave up six runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 innings Wednesday night. One scout who was at the game described Price's stuff as "not crisp" and his command as "poor."
But although the results weren't what Price intended, he said he gained confidence from being able to work as hard as he did to get through both outings. Farrell said Price's ability to reach his target pitch count, albeit in less than four complete innings, convinced the Red Sox that he was ready to join the starting rotation.
"The buildup of pitch count is really where you're going to center your decision-making on," Farrell said. "Granted, we know what's taken place in the two rehab starts, but the fact that our goal setting out was to get him to 90 pitches, he was able to do that last night."
Said Price: "A lot of pitches in a short amount of time. I think that's more of a test to being healthy as opposed to going out there and throwing five or six [innings] in 90 pitches. To do what I did in both of my rehab outings, I don't think you can do that if you're not healthy."
Price was diagnosed with an elbow strain, although neither he nor the Red Sox provided specifics about the doctors' findings. When Price returned from Indianapolis, he said both Andrews and ElAttrache told him surgery would've been necessary if he was younger. But the fact that the 31-year-old has worked more than 1,600 innings in his nine-year major league career led them to conclude that his elbow would heal with rest and rehab.
Farrell said the Red Sox initially will impose "a little tighter rein" on Price's workload to ease him back to the mound. Even still, the club believes Price at less than 100 percent represents a better option than Triple-A fill-ins Brian Johnson, Kyle Kendrick and Hector Velazquez, who have combined with knuckleballer Steven Wright to give the Red Sox a 9.35 ERA from the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Wright is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery last week.
"Even if he goes out and gives us the 90 pitches in the first few outings -- and obviously there's going to be a little tighter rein on him with the workload initially until we continue to build him out -- but like I said, adding David Price to your rotation is always going to be a positive," said Farrell.
In Price's absence, Red Sox starters have posted a 4.47 ERA, 11th in the 15-team American League entering play Thursday night. The Sox are 24-21 despite injuries to Price, Wright, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, utility man Brock Holt and reliever Tyler Thornburg.
"To kind of have the mayhem we've had around here and to still be above .500, that shows us how much talent we have," Price said. "It's always tough. Even if we were 40-0 right now, it's still tough to not be out there and be able to contribute. The DL is not something that anybody wants to be on. It's over now, and I'm excited for it."