Arthur White is the doctor who performed back surgery on Joe Montana four years ago. Mark Sontag is the doctor who treats the San Francisco 49ers on a daily basis.
Both think free-agent lefthander Joe Price still can pitch in the major leagues, and they stated as much in a two-page letter Price's agent plans to FAX to the Orioles today.
Price, 33, is a free agent only because the Orioles refused to pick up the $400,000 option year in his contract, a decision they based in large part on the bulging disk in his back.
Three weeks ago, Price visited the two specialists in Daly City, Calif. He said he wanted to set the record straight for clubs that might be interested in signing him -- including the Orioles.
"The bottom line is, I would still like to play there next year," Price said last night from his San Diego home. "Maybe this is my way of extending my hand."
According to Price, the doctors' letter says in part, "His risk for recurring back pain, radiating hip pain and the development of leg discomfort is mild.
"This risk would not interfere with his ability to perform as a professional baseball pitcher in our opinion. This is a risk that many ballplayers at his level and age experience."
Price, a 10-year veteran, finished 3-4 with a 3.58 earned run average last season, and he stranded 41 of 50 inherited runners, the best ratio on the club. The Orioles lack a suitable replacement for him on their 40-man roster.
On the down side, Price was on the disabled list from June 29 to July 15. The Orioles declined his option after he underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test at the end of the season.
Price believes the club has made an error in judgment. He said he pitched the final 2 1/2 months without once receiving medical treatment for his back.
Earlier this week, his agent, Joe Bick, joked, "His back is absolutely killing him. He's playing golf every day." Indeed, Price played five times in six days on a recent trip to Florida and said he experienced no pain.
Price said he has spent nearly $1,000 on physical therapy and doctors' bills since the end of the season, but added, "That's a drop in the bucket. Even if I didn't get another job, I would want to know exactly what's wrong with me.
"What Roland told Joe [Bick] is that I was a walking time bomb," Price said. "It's just not true."