ARLINGTON -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons wasn't bluffing when he said he would not hesitate to use left-hander David Price out of the bullpen in Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Rangers on Monday. Even so, it's fair to say that few people could have foreseen exactly how Price would be deployed.
Price, who got the victory in the 8-4 Blue Jays win, turned in three innings and was charged with three runs on six hits while striking out two. The decision paid off, but it came with a fair bit of scrutiny and criticism along the way.
The Cy Young candidate tossed 50 pitches which, according to Gibbons, rules him out for a possible appearance in the decisive Game 5 on Wednesday at Rogers Centre (4 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1/Sportsnet) -- even if Price may see that matter differently. The fact that Gibbons went to Price with a 7-1 lead raised more than a few eyebrows, but he said the decision was made because he didn't want to take any chances with the score.
"It wasn't an easy decision," said Gibbons, who added that lefty Aaron Loup wasn't available because of a family situation. "It was hard for me to do, but I thought that was the best way to win the game, keep them from coming back."
Price took over for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with one out in the fifth inning and one runner on. He got Shin-Soo Choo to fly out to center and then tossed a scoreless sixth to preserve the six-run lead. There were some issues in the seventh and eighth as Price surrendered RBI singles to Robinson Chirinos and Elvis Andrus and a run-scoring groundout by Mitch Moreland.
It was Price's first appearance out of the bullpen since 2010 and his first in a postseason game since his rookie season in '08. The original line of speculation was that the Blue Jays would limit Price's workload in Game 4 so that he also would be available for Game 5, but the club instead decided to go in another direction.
The decision to use Price meant right-hander Marcus Stroman officially became the starter for Game 5. Gibbons ruled out using Price out of the bullpen again on Wednesday, but Price offered a different take and said he would be ready if the Blue Jays needed him.
"I feel like I'll be available for Wednesday," said Price, who is 2-6 with a 5.04 ERA in 12 career postseason games. "I mean, however many pitches I threw today, if that was my start date, Wednesday would be a side day, so I'll go to the field tomorrow, I'll get my work in and I'll be ready to go on Wednesday. But they just told me to be ready for any type of situation."
The decision to go with Stroman over Price in Game 5 would have seemed unfathomable a couple of weeks ago. Price finished the year as one of the best pitchers in baseball and the bona fide No. 1 starter on a team that won the AL East. The line of thinking likely changed after Price allowed five runs and took the loss in Game 1.
Stroman appeared to have some nerves early in Game 2, but he quickly settled down after that. He allowed four runs -- three earned -- over seven innings and by all accounts had a much stronger outing. That appears to have won him the opportunity to start the decisive Game 5. If Price was upset with that decision he certainly wasn't showing it after Monday's victory to extend the series.
"We have a lot of guys that put up really good numbers, but this is a pretty selfless team," Price said. "Whenever you're a part of something like this where 25 guys on that active roster and everybody else in that clubhouse has one common goal, that's special. You don't get that a lot.
"There's always somebody that cares more about what they do than what the team does and that's not the case here and we have our fair share of big-name guys and we want to win and that's the bottom line every day, everybody just do their part, do your job and don't try and do too much."
Or, as Gibbons put it:
"Really I thought it was a pretty good strategy. It wasn't a popular one, but I thought that was the best way to go. It's all about winning, I thought, you know?"