They were the veterans who took Price under their wings and mentored him. He watched the way they handled themselves -- how they carefully took care of their bodies, how they meticulously prepared for each season, how they conducted themselves in the clubhouse.
And over the years, on his way to a Cy Young Award, five All-Star Game appearances and exalted status as one of the dominant pitchers in the game, the 30-year-old Price has paid it forward. He has tutored a number of young pitchers, helping them prepare a path to potential greatness. Just ask Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays or Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Last December, a few days after Price signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, Stroman posted some gushing prose of praise on Instagram for Price, saying, “Even though our time together was limited, you took every opportunity to take me under your wing and teach me your ways. For that, I am forever thankful. Watching and critiquing my bullpens. Treating everyone with class and respect. Putting your teammates first. Showing up early, and staying late. Forming a bond with every single guy on the team.”
One day, Eduardo Rodriguez might express a similar sentiment.
Rodriguez, a 22-year-old left-handed power pitcher acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on July 31, 2014, made his major league debut last year, going 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 121 2/3 innings. But he had some trouble locating his pitches and was guilty of tipping his pitches when working from the stretch.
From the moment Rodriguez and Price arrived at spring training, they have clicked. By matching the two in the same pitching group for drills and bullpen work, the Red Sox made sure that Price’s role as a mentor was accentuated.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been talking a lot over these days. How to control any situation, how to throw the pitch. Last year, every time before games, I’d go into the video room to see a couple of hitters. I’d put his name on and see his videos.”
One thing Price noticed right away: Rodriguez is eager to learn.
“That’s not always the case with young guys,” Price said. “A lot of young guys -- especially with an arm like this -- they feel they can kind of figure stuff out on their own. They like what they’re doing because it’s worked for them thus far. He’s come up to me every day, two or three times a day, and picked my brain about certain pitches or how to use certain pitches. That’s good to see.”
Everywhere Price has played he’s been known as a leader, a mentor, a stand-up guy, a class act. He’s never regarded himself as bigger than the game. It’s apparent that leaving a legacy is a deeply ingrained part of his psyche.
“I had guys do that for me whenever I was at his stage, and I know how important it is to have a veteran guy that’s going to take the time to talk to you and watch video or whatever it is,” Price said. “I’m there for him, and the rest of these guys as well. And he knows that.”
Said Farrell, “I think it comes naturally. You always give suggestions, but I think one thing that David Price has established for himself is he’s done it with many people, many pitchers. That’s why he’s got such a strong reputation as the teammate that he is. In the early camp that’s kind of happened naturally, organically, between the two.
“I know (Rodriguez) is eager and expecting a lot of himself after a successful first year in the big leagues. But those conversations are only going to get deeper and more frequent. He’s got a great guy he can hopefully look to as a mentor as he advances in his own right.”
Not a big deal to Price. He believes everybody can lead.
“That’s not something you stand up and say, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to be a leader,’” he said. “Everybody has leadership qualities. Guys go about it in different ways. I’m not going to change. I’m going to stay the same. I’m going to make sure I’m available to everybody. Just be an open book.”
Price is a rock of stability, even in what has been an odd spring for him. This is the third straight year that he has reported to a different place. It was Port Charlotte in 2014, Lakeland in 2015 and now Fort Myers.
To make it even more potentially unsettling, he’s wearing the uniform of the Red Sox -- a team the Tampa Rays loved to hate in Price’s seven seasons with them.
“I think there’s always a little bit of disbelief whenever you’re in a new environment,” Price said. “It’s definitely wearing off. It feels lot better now than it did a week ago.”