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.”
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.
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.
It’s a new look for Turner, who has led most of the games in his eight-year career, but believes the gap between the two batting orders has narrowed since his 2015 debut.
“In the past I thought you got more heaters in my career,” he said. “It’s a new ballgame now. I get a lot of breaking balls to start the game, first pitch. I find that as the game developed, hitting a leadoff or third is more uniform than before. Now, my With Mookie and (Max) Muncie in front, there are going to be people on base more often.
“It’s the same thing: Put the ball in play, get the pitches to hit. I think these RBI situations will go away on their own.”
Roberts said both players agreed to the change when he suggested it ahead of Thursday’s game in St. Bates (averaging 4.08 pitches per plate attendance through Friday) has been a more selective hitter this year than Turner (3.73 p/pa through Friday).
AJ Pollock, on a 10-day injury list with a strained right hamstring, progressed to his running schedule on Friday. Roberts said the veteran outfielder is on track to return “sooner than we anticipated” when he was initially hired at IL. That date is yet to be decided.
The news was not as good for pitcher Danny Duffy, who was unable to complete his bullpen session on Friday due to pain in his left elbow. Duffy has not appeared in a game since the Dodgers named him for a player from the Kansas City Royals at a later trade deadline.
With four weeks remaining in the regular season, Roberts acknowledged that Duffy’s season was in jeopardy.
Infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor was given a day off due to a neck ailment. Roberts said Taylor aggravated the injury during a game in the field on Friday. Cody Bellinger was supposed to get a day off, but he started in center field instead.
Dodgers RHP Max Schaezer (13-4, 2.28 ERA) vs. San Diego LHP Blake Snell (7-6, 4.22 ERA), Sunday at 1:10 p.m., Sportsnet LA, 570 AM