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Dodgers: David Price Can See Himself As a High-Leverage Reliever



The Dodgers are in a very interesting position with David Price. Not only did he get a year of rest, but DP was able to build up much sooner than in years past. The veteran southpaw got on his throwing program early and was one of the first pitchers we saw throwing in preparation for Spring Training. 

But the Dodgers also have a few different options with how they utilize Price’s talents. They could slot him into the middle of the rotation like everyone expected at the start of camp. Alternatively, they could take advantage of the position they are in and use him in the bullpen early on. 

Price talked about his role following the Dodgers spring game against the Diamondbacks on Thursday. For DP, he continues to reiterate that he will pitch in whatever role the team asks of him. Price also said that he could see himself being a high-leverage guy and going back-to-back days if used in relief. 

Absolutely. The times that I have thrown out of the bullpen, it’s always been on short rest. I feel like the more that I throw the more crisp that my stuff gets. I enjoy having the opportunity to go out there and help this team win.

Price even went as far as to describe why pitching in relief can be so much of a benefit. As a starter. you only get to contribute to a team once every 5 days. 

I think that’s the one thing that’s tough kind of about being a starter, you get to play every 5 days. As a reliever, you get to the field and you know you have an opportunity to help the team be successful. That’s just my attitude towards being in the bullpen and that’s how I look at it.  

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The fact that he is so open to any role the Dodgers have for him is telling of his leadership. Price has been quick to recognize the incredible talent and depth of this pitching staff in 2021. Since the start of the year, he’s been adamant that he will pitch wherever needed. 

He’s also been incredible in relief throughout his career. Through 10 appearances, Price owns a 0.98 ERA with a high strikeout rate. He came in to face the Dodgers during the 2018 World Series, shutting them down in the 9th inning of Game 3. 

If the Dodgers are forced to use him in the pen, it could be huge. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. I like Price in the bullpen as a potentially important LHP. See how he does in shorter bullpen stints. And how Urias does as a starter. If Urias falters in the rotation, and Price looks good out of the bullpen, you could always swap them. We already know that Urias does well out of the bullpen. As LHPs on a RHP dominant rotation and bullpen, they both have some added value, and interchangeability. Let it play out.

  2. I think we can expect Price, May, Urias and Nelson to shuttle between starting and relieving throughout the first half. That will help decide who is in the bullpen during the playoffs and who will be the 4th starter. Plus it helps limit innings for everyone.

  3. You always need two long relievers; one lefty and one righty. Price and Santana, or Price and Morrow. That, with a six-man rotation, and everybody is contributing…

  4. So, there’s a great article on ESPN (insider subscription) regarding the big jump from last year’s 60 games to the huge jump for starting rotations. I’ve copied and pasted most of the article below. THIS is why you have a six-man rotation and starters like Price and Morrow (even Santana) in the bullpen. Here ya go:

    ‘It’s gonna be an issue for 30 teams’: Starting pitchers brace for unprecedented innings jump
    Last year, no major leaguer threw more than 84 innings. With workloads set to double or even triple in 2021, teams admit they have few answers.

    Major League Baseball will return to a 162-game season in 2021, one year after the COVID-19 pandemic shortened its schedule to 60 games. That means 30 teams will scramble to fill an extra 900 or so innings, a frightening proposition for an industry increasingly fixated on the health of its pitchers. Starters and relievers throughout the sport are bracing for triple the workload and might inevitably pitch at fatigue levels that typically portend injuries. It’s an unprecedented circumstance. Solutions remain elusive.

    “It’s gonna be an issue for 30 teams,” Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re all gonna have to figure out what’s the best way to keep our guys healthy, and I don’t think there’s one answer for every pitcher.”

    Lance Lynn, dealt from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago White Sox in December, accumulated 84 innings during the 2020 regular season. The total led the majors, but it fell 124 1/3 innings shy of his mark from the prior season — when Lynn finished seventh. From 2010 to 2019, there were only 18 instances of pitchers achieving a 120-plus-innings increase from one year to the next (among those with at least 20 major league innings on the front end). Now a jump of that magnitude might suddenly be necessary.

    A longtime scout noted that veterans might actually benefit from shorter workloads the prior year, adding that pitchers commonly and successfully absorb dramatic innings increases upon returning from prolonged injuries. But many of the sport’s starting pitchers will be coming off at least two seasons of lesser workloads, adding another layer of difficulty to their usage. Among the 120 pitchers taking up their respective teams’ first four rotation spots (according to depth charts provided by Roster Resource), 55 of them pitched fewer than 200 innings in 2019 and 2020 combined.

    The list includes All-Stars such as Blake Snell, Corey Kluber, Jake Odorizzi and Dallas Keuchel. It includes Marcus Stroman, who opted out of the 2020 season, and Carlos Martinez, who transitioned back from the bullpen to the rotation. And it includes relatively young pitchers ascending into their prime, such as Tyler Glasnow and Julio Urias.

    Zac Gallen does not fall into that category, given his extended workload in 2019. But he’s still only 25, has already displayed impact potential, and the Arizona Diamondbacks plan to limit his innings this season.

    Gallen accumulated only 72 of them last year.

    “Even doubling that is kind of a crazy jump,” he said. “Usually it’s a slow progression over the years. Obviously I’m not really surprised by that, but it’s not really gonna affect what I do. I’m gonna go out there and try to throw as many innings as possible until they decide to shut me down, or whatever happens.”

    The Los Angeles Angels, who employ a two-way player in Shohei Ohtani, have already committed to a six-man rotation, as have the Seattle Mariners, who consider the extra day crucial to the development of their young starters. The Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox have also considered the idea. Other teams will undoubtedly follow suit. They’ll also piggyback starters, prioritize long relievers, manage stressful innings and hope for honesty about soreness and fatigue from their pitchers.

    But the common approach appears to be more reactive than proactive. With Opening Day less than two weeks away, pitchers are still ramping up as they normally would. Most teams don’t anticipate finalizing their plans until games count and reality hits.

    “To say that we have the answer now is foolish,” Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior said. “I don’t think anybody truly has the answers. We’re just gonna have to be honest with each other and make some calls, whether they’re right, wrong, and we probably won’t know that until the end of the year.”

    Prior’s biggest concern lies with young pitchers who got most of their work at teams’ alternate sites last year.

    There were a combined 235 stints on the injured list by pitchers from 2018 to 2019. In 2020 alone, when COVID-19 forced spring training to shut down and several players ramped up too quickly for the summer restart, there were 197 non-COVID IL stints by pitchers, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. Those injuries — and the lack of a minor league season, which forced noncompetitive teams to often use major league games for development — prompted several high-profile prospects to debut sooner than projected.

    Of the 32 pitching prospects who dotted Kiley McDaniel’s Top 100 list last year, 15 appeared in the majors in 2020 and only two of them, Dustin May of the Dodgers and Jesus Luzardo of the Oakland Athletics, logged at least 40 innings. A 30% innings increase — the general rule of thumb for developing young pitchers — will often be unrealistic in 2021. The Tigers personify this issue. They employ three young, talented starters ready to assume regular rotation spots in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning, none of whom registered more than 30 professional innings last season.

    “We as a staff have to develop a plan for them, we as a front office and as an organization will have an overarching plan going into the season,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “But the player has to go out on the field and go out and compete as hard as he can for as long as he can.”

    Walker Buehler mostly rested during last year’s three-month shutdown and finished the season feeling as if he “left a lot of bullets on the table,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, prompting a significantly more aggressive offseason throwing program. Buehler’s teammate Blake Treinen took the opposite approach, throwing to college hitters and taking part in aggressive bullpen sessions between the end of spring training and the start of summer camp in an effort to build a foundation for 2021. Several others mimicked that approach, including one veteran starting pitcher who falls among the list of players accumulating less than 200 innings from 2019 to 2020.

    That pitcher, who felt more comfortable speaking candidly if left anonymous, said he’ll prepare like normal, remain conscious about not pushing himself too early, continually monitor his health and hope for the best.

    “I’d be more concerned about relievers,” he said. “They’re gonna get crazy amounts of work.”

    From 2016 to 2020, the percentage of regular-season innings absorbed by relievers jumped from 36.7 to 38.1 to 40.1 to 42.1 to 44.5. That rate should only increase in 2021, a major detriment to the pace-of-play issues that torment the sport. Teams like the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, aggressive in their offseason pursuit of pitching despite built-in depth through their minor league system, will be at a significant advantage. Most of the others will have no choice but to push pitchers beyond what’s comfortable.

    “I imagine teams are gonna be conservative, and rightly so, so hopefully that minimizes some of the result of it,” Bauer said. “Hopefully you don’t see that many injuries just because of the conservatism on that end. But yeah — if the teams operated just as normal, and they threw their guys out there for the normal innings limits, I think it’d be a big problem.”

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