Wednesday, September 22, 2021

David Price returns to the bullpen as Dodgers’ rotation returns to normal

LOS ANGELES The most unusual season of David Price’s 13-year career finds the seasoned pitcher right where he started.

Clayton Kershaw will be activated from the injured list on Monday and that night’s game will begin against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tony Gonsolin would begin the next day, and the 5-man rotation would turn into Julio Uriás in the series finale.

It is the first time in a month the Dodgers have not relied on a bullpen game in place of the starting pitcher to take at least one turn through the order.

That means Price is likely to be a reliever again for the remainder of the 2021 season – injuries permitting.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Price’s role would be as the team defined it in spring training: “to take down the leverage innings in the pen.” He turns left and right. He can go in two innings, if needed he can go for three, if we need him the next day then one innings in a short burst.”

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It’s easy to forget what it looked like.

In his first 23 matches of the season, Price never pitched more than 2 2/3 innings at a time. He pitched twice on back-to-back days, and once appeared in three games in a row. The period was interrupted by a trip to the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, and included three early assignments in which Price served as the Dodgers’ “opener”.

Price had a 3.58 earned-run average as of July 9, when he went into rotation to replace Kershaw. Surprisingly, according to Statcast, the velocity on each of Price’s four favorite pitches ticked up as a starting pitcher—as opposed to the typical pattern. Yet his strike rate fell. His age is over. The Dodgers took a 2-6 lead in eight games that began in Kershaw’s absence.

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By the time of their August 28 game against the Colorado Rockies, the Dodgers used an opener in place of Price.

After that game, Price took leave for the next seven days after he reported pain in his left elbow. He got five more days rest as he entered Saturday’s game against the Padres. However, elbow pain is no longer a problem for Price, Roberts said.

Now, the 36-year-old left-hander has returned to a role that he barely had three months to develop. From 2009–19, he started 310 games; Only 10 major league pitchers made more starts during that period. Price opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For whom to turn(er) down

Tree Turner moved from first to third in the batting order this week, swapping spots with Mookie Bates.

David Price returns to the bullpen as Dodgers' rotation returns to normal
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