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Reliever Caleb Ferguson makes return for Dodgers; David Price’s next steps unclear

Dodgers' Caleb Ferguson throws against the Houston Astros.
Left-hander Caleb Ferguson, pictured in July 2020, threw a scoreless inning Monday night in the Dodgers’ 5-4 win over Arizona. It was his first big league outing since he had Tommy John surgery.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

They’re both left-handers, both relievers, both ready to offer help for an injury-thinned Dodgers pitching staff.

But the circumstances of Caleb Ferguson’s and David Price’s returns are much different. Ferguson is primed for a career sunrise; Price is in his twilight. Ferguson has been away for nearly two years; Price for three weeks.

Most notably, the Dodgers seem to have a plan for Ferguson. Price? It’s not clear.

On Monday, Ferguson was recalled from a triple-A rehabilitation assignment and trotted out to the mound at Dodger Stadium for the first time since Tommy John surgery stopped a breakout 2020 season. Tasked with seventh-inning duties and the Dodgers ahead by three runs, he gave up a walk before striking out the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Geraldo Perdomo so emphatically that Perdomo corkscrewed into the dirt. Ferguson pitched a scoreless inning, and the Dodgers held on for a 5-4 win.

“First hitter, I had a lot of nerves there,” Ferguson said after the victory. “Couldn’t really feel the ball in my hand. Kind of felt almost like I was making my debut again.”

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Ferguson had struggled at triple A, with an 11.57 ERA in six appearances, but manager Dave Roberts said his command looked better in his final couple of outings.

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“I think right now he’s in a good spot, mentally and physically,” Roberts said before Monday night’s game.

On Sept. 15, 2020, in the eighth inning against San Diego, Ferguson fired a 2-and-2 pitch to the Padres’ Jurickson Profar. It was a pretty 91-mph offering, just off the outside corner, sending Profar chasing and back to the bench. But it brought an ugly result, as Ferguson doubled over after the ball crossed the plate, waving for assistance.

It had been the last time he took a major league mound. His return isn’t just sentimental but valuable — with a starting rotation missing Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney, Roberts has been forced to stretch his bullpen in recent games.

“It’s a fresh arm,” Roberts said before the game. “We certainly trust him and expect him to go out there and pitch well.”

With Price, however, it’s unclear what the Dodgers expect.

Dodgers pitcher David Price throws a pitch during a spring training workout.
Dodgers left-hander David Price delivers during a spring-training workout March 13 in Phoenix.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

After a strong start, posting a 1.93 ERA in five appearances, the veteran hasn’t pitched since April 22 because of a positive COVID-19 test and corresponding move to the injured list. Roberts said he was on the taxi squad and likely to be activated Tuesday.

But before Monday’s game, Price didn’t seem to know when he would return.

“Been ready to go,” he said. “It’s time.”

When asked about his next appearance, Price said to ask Roberts or Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

Price had thrown a couple of bullpen sessions and a live batting practice, Roberts said, assuming the left-hander was “feeling well.” But the manager wasn’t ready to commit to riding the 36-year-old hard.

The Dodgers have lost five of seven and can’t possibly be a good team.

“David’s been down for close to three weeks,” Roberts said. “To take down two innings, I think, is a tall ask. So I think it’s just going to be getting his feet back under him and pitching.”

Was Price anticipating providing help to the starting rotation?

“[The] Dodgers are one of the best organizations in baseball,” he said with a slight smirk. “They’ll figure it out.”


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