St. Louis — Athletes listen to the sounds their body makes much like a mechanic listens to the pings and groans of a motor.
So when David Price heard something pop in right hamstring last Sunday, followed immediately by a loosening in the area, he knew the healing process was near an end.
"It was one of those pops that frees stuff up," he said. "It made it feel a lot better. When that happened, I knew the leg was not an issue."
Price injured his right hamstring when he tripped over a bat while backing up home plate in his last start against the Royals April 8. His next start, scheduled for yesterday, was pushed back two days. He will pitch against the Cardinals Saturday — and he's ready to go.
"It feels good," Price said. "There are some movements when I feel it just a little bit, but it's something that, if what happened on the field didn't happen and I still felt what I sometimes do feel now, I wouldn't think twice about it.
"And I definitely wouldn't say anything to the training staff about it."
When he first stepped on the bat and felt the tightening in his leg, Price feared the worse.
"For me, when it first happened, it scared me, big-time," he said. "But when I threw those two (warm-up) pitches on the mound, that made me feel better. I really thought it was a lot worse than it was."
Still, Price left no stone unturned in the short treatment process.
"We were really proactive with it," he said. "We did a lot of treatment at the field and I did my treatment at home, as well. I would say I was doing treatment four times a day."
So, he hired a personal physical therapist to work on him at home?
"No," he said. "I did my own stuff. I am close to being certified."
"I am kidding, but I am 85 percent serious," he said.
The first couple of days after the injury, he pushed himself on the Ultra-G, anti-gravity treadmill, working at 50-percent body fat. Then he did two days on the regular treadmill.
All the while he continued his normal between-starts throwing program.
"I did my bullpen two days ago and it was fine," he said. "I threw close to the intensity of the game so I could test it and there were no problems."
He said it helps that the injury was on his right leg, his plant leg, and not his drive leg when he's pitching.
"If I had to stay on five days (after the injury), if it was the playoffs or the World Series and I needed to pitch, I would've been out there," Price said. "The extra two days were more precautionary. We did it because we could. Having the off-day helped. There was no need to rush back. It was the right move."
Price has never faced the Cardinals, which he believes is to his advantage.
"If a pitcher faces a team he's never faced before, that's on the opposing hitters," he said. "It's a lot tougher for them. I am not going to change the way I pitch."
Price, one of the game's top strikeout pitchers, has fanned 33 batters in his first seven starts — uncharacteristically low. Last season, for comparison sake, he had 55 punch-outs through seven starts.
Is he hankering for a double-digit strikeout game?
"No," he said, thinking about it. "No. Not really. I will have these stretches, I always have, where I haven't struck out a bunch of guys. But honestly, my stuff has been really good. I know they will come.
"If I get a guy 0-2, I just want to make a pitcher's pitch. If he puts in play, so be it. The strikeouts will happen."
His motto is the hitter should be out or on in three pitches — not much margin for error in terms of strikeouts.
"I would much rather go nine innings with two strikeouts than go six with 10 strikeout," he said.