FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Give David Price the benefit of the doubt, if you happen to doubt him. Afford him the chance to follow through.
The Red Sox lefty arrived in a position of greater leadership last season, the first without David Ortiz. The messiness that ensued has been well documented.
On Tuesday morning at JetBlue Park, he said he’ll handle that job differently going forward.
MORE DAVID PRICE
“I feel like I’ve always been one to lead with my actions, and I didn’t do that very well last year,” Price said. “And I know that and understand that, and I look forward to getting back and being that faucet and not being a drain.”
There’s a significant admission in that metaphor, one he’s used before. In a 2015 tweet, Price wrote:
There are two types of people in this world..faucets or drains! Which are you? if you say drain just unfollow me I ain't got time 4 you! #WJ— David Price (@DAVIDprice24) July 3, 2015
What Price acknowledged Tuesday is that he acted in a way that is antithetical to his being. It's a notable mea culpa from a player in a position of power.
"I could've handled it better last year, absolutely, but I didn't, and I've moved on," Price said in a 17-minute talk with a large group of media. "I look forward to getting back this year and getting off on the right foot."
Price’s pitching in Boston has always been excellent when healthy, outside of the first seven starts of his Red Sox career. That first impression left a sour taste for some fans and some media -- certainly not for all -- and also inflated his 2016 ERA to 3.99.
But he was a major reason the Sox won the division in 2016. He had a poor start in the playoffs that year, but he was hardly the reason the Sox lost the Division Series to Cleveland. On the other hand, his bullpen dominance was the reason the Sox even had a chance in last year's DS against Houston.
He’s dominant if he’s able to take the mound. That hasn’t changed in Boston.
The scrutiny is what changed, as everyone knows. But people can grow and adapt, and what Price put forth on Tuesday was a calm message that in itself suggested growth.
Winters in baseball are meant for reflection and healing. Spring, now, is meant for opportunity.
“Relaxed, family,” Price said of how he was able to recharge. “That was the first offseason being a father, so that was -- it’s different, to say the least. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of, so it’s been good."
There’s no telling whether Price will indeed back up his words. The ball's in his court, the chance all his. But he should be given that chance in the court of public opinion, because one messy season a seven-year contract does not make.
Price has some help. New manager Alex Cora seems to be making inroads, and we can infer Cora is connecting with Price in a way that John Farrell did not.
“It's casual conversation,” Price said. “It’s not always about baseball, and I think that's good. We have a good relationship already, and that's talking more than just baseball.”
MORE RED SOX
Price is taking a matter-of-fact approach to fans and Boston: He'll be loved if he wins.
There still exists a natural, inherent conflict between Price and the media, and Price touched on it briefly Tuesday.
In the middle of last year, Price stopped talking to most Boston media members individually. Price said on Tuesday that such interviews could start again this season, with a caveat.
“We can talk,” Price said. “But you're not going to come over and overload me with negativity. It's not going to happen. That's not going to happen.”
What defines overloading him with negativity? Reporting involves asking negative questions, and those do undoubtedly go overboard sometimes.
It’s almost a guarantee, at some point, Price will face an interview he does not like, with a reporter he deems in that moment -- rightly or wrongly -- to be a drain.
The question is how he handles that moment. He has every right to end an interview. Would he do so in a way reflective of his commitment to the new form of leadership he spoke of Tuesday?
ALSO ON NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM
Price has contradicted himself in the past. He declared he was at peace last season at a time when he clearly was not . . . just before he began to take on the media, for example.
A year from now, we’ll better know if Price really meant what he said Tuesday. He can opt out of his contract after this season. Price was asked if he has any doubt as to whether he’d return to Boston next year.
“No. There's not,” Price said. “I came here to win. I knew how tough it was to play here and pitch here. If you can go out there and win, I know all the emotions and everything's going to be better in that positive light. I look forward to doing that."
Everyone should look forward to seeing him do that, as well.