After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, David Price returned to the Dodgers in 2021. With a crowded rotation, Price told the front-office he was willing to do whatever was asked of him, which meant coming out of the bullpen for the first time in his career.
The veteran appeared in 39 games in 2021, making 11 starts. Price never was able to get truly built up, as he spent time on the Injured List and went back-and-forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation. His longest start was 5 2⁄3 innings and he only went at least five innings twice.
Price’s 2021 campaign got off to a rough start in Colorado, as he allowed five runs in 3 2⁄3 innings. He really settled down after that, as he posted a 1.50 ERA and 1.17 FIP over his next five outings. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury sidelined him right as he was heating up.
After missing nearly a month, Price returned to LA’s bullpen. Over the next six weeks, Price was solid yet again. He appeared in 16 games, even making three starts. Though he was pretty much used as an opener for a bullpen game in those starts, as he failed to pitch three innings in all three games.
With a depleted starting rotation heading into the All-Star break, the Dodgers opted to add Price to the starting rotation.
“As we look out into the near future, I think David Price, the idea of building him up starts to make more sense,” Dave Roberts said in July. “Once we get to the break, we’ll have a clearer vision.”
From July 9 through August 22, Price made eight starts and came out of the bullpen once. He was able to give the Dodgers a solid amount of innings, throwing at least four innings in seven of his eight starts. He posted a 4.00 ERA, 4.09 FIP and had 26 strikeouts in 36 innings.
His final start came on August 22. The rest of the season Price came out of the bullpen. It was a rough finish to his season, as he allowed six runs on 12 hits over his final 10 innings. He had twice as many walks (8) as strikeouts (4) and his FIP was above 6.00.
Price was on the Dodgers’ roster in the NLDS against the Giants, but never appeared in a game. He was left off the NLCS roster, but was later added to replace an injured Joe Kelly.
His MVP moment of the year
Although he didn’t play in 2020, Price was given a World Series ring. He announced that he would be donating his World Series ring and auctioning it off, with proceeds benefiting The Players Alliance.
“I wasn’t apart of winning that ring,” he said. “I made my decision [to sit out]. Personally, I didn’t think I deserved to get one. They wanted me to still receive one. I thought it was a very good idea and something that would help a lot of up and coming baseball players.”
The Players Alliance launched in June 2020 and features more than 150 current and former Black professional baseball players. The organization’s mission statement is “to create an inclusive culture within baseball and the community ... to elevate racial equality and provide greater opportunities for the Black community.”
Stats: 4.03 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 73.2 IP, 58 K, 17.8-percent K rate, 0.7 bWAR, 0.7 fWAR
Salary: $32 million (Dodgers on hook for $16 million)
Game of the year
There were appearances in which Price looked like he had re-discovered the fountain of youth. His most impressive outing came on May 27 against the Giants. Price made the start, going 2 2⁄3 innings while allowing zero runs and zero hits.
He faced eight batters and recorded eight outs. Of the eight outs Price recorded, five of them came via the strikeout. He made 35 pitches, with 27 of them being for strikes. His seven whiffs were tied for the second most he had all season.
Price is under contract for one more season.