BUFFALO, N.Y. — David Price knew better than lobby for a chance to go out for a third inning after struggling through the first two in the Boston ace’s first minor league rehab start.
"I’ve got to do as I’m told," Price said. "If I don’t like it, pitch better."
Though saying he felt no soreness in his strained left pitching elbow that has sidelined him since late February, Price didn’t appear entirely right during a brief stint with Triple-A Pawtucket at Buffalo on Friday night.
The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner was yanked after a three-run second inning, in which he gave up four hits, including a leadoff homer. Overall, he allowed five hits, struck out four and gave up a walk during a 65-pitch performance, about 25 short of what the Red Sox were expecting.
"It’s not the way I drew it up obviously," Price said. "But to be able to go out there and throw 30-plus pitches in both of those innings and still to feel the way I felt after walking off the mound in that second inning, that’s good."
The 31-year-old star insisted he still feels on track to rejoin the Red Sox next week.
"I feel great right now," Price said. "I definitely want to get back out there and I’ll leave that decision to management."
Red Sox manager John Farrell had time to watch Price’s first inning before Boston’s game at Oakland.
"There was plenty of swing and miss. It looked like there was plenty of power," Farrell said. "He’s got a night of work ahead of him."
Price threw 41 strikes and 24 balls. It’s unclear how fast his pitches were because of technical difficulties involving the radar gun.
Calling it "a work in progress," Price acknowledged he wasn’t entirely in command of all of his pitches.
Price dismissed a question of what some might make of his numbers.
"I’m not worried about the observers and their opinions," he said. "That doesn’t mean anything to me."
It was a short night for Price’s long-awaited debut and after his first scheduled start at Pawtucket was rained out on Sunday. He instead threw 75 pitches in a simulated game.
The trouble on Friday began in the second inning when leadoff hitter Raffy Lopez hit a 2-0 pitch over the 371-foot mark in left-centre field. With the bases loaded and one out, Price gave up two runs on Jake Elmore’s bloop single into right field.
Elmore tested Price in leading off the game. He fouled off 12 pitches before lining a 3-2 pitch into right-centre for a double. Price bore down to strike out the next three batters on 15 pitches.
Price had a better week from a personal perspective in celebrating the birth of his son, Xavier, on Tuesday. After welcoming his son home on Friday morning, Price flew in to Buffalo. He then left the stadium to catch a flight back to Boston while the game was still being played.
There’s plenty of focus being placed on Price, who is entering the second year of a seven-year $217 million contract. The Red Sox are off to an inconsistent start despite spending the off-season improving what was an already strong pitching staff. Aside from Price, the Red Sox’s rotation includes last year’s AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (2-5) and they added Chris Sale (4-2).
Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval also made his rehab assignment debut by going 0 for 3 in a DH role. Out since April 24 with a sprained right knee, Sandoval popped out to second, lined out to left and then grounded out to third.
Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said Sandoval could see time at third base on Saturday depending on how his knee feels.
"I felt good. My knee doesn’t bother me," Sandoval said after getting in some batting and infield practice before the game. "Missing a month, I just want to get better as soon as possible. I want to help my team."
The 2012 World Series MVP with San Francisco is in his third season with the Red Sox; he played just three games last year with a torn left labrum.