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Price ready ... but for what?

Posted Mar 9, 2009 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Mar 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM

PORT CHARLOTTE—Talked to David Price a bit this morning, as he is set to make his spring debut tomorrow against the Blue Jays.

It’s a strange situation for Price, in that he is nominally in competition for the fifth starter’s job but has had to sit back and watch Jeff Niemann, Jason Hammel, Mitch Talbot, Wade Davis and Carlos Hernandez make multiple appearances without clearing the starting block himself.

“It’s kind of tough for me to be like, ‘All right, those guys are throwing great and I’m just kind of sitting here watching everybody,’” Price said. “It’s going to be good to get out there and get a good chance, take my turn.”

The real question is what Price can do to actually earn the job. The Rays continue to beat the development drum in discussing Price’s chances of breaking camp with the team, and even though no one has come right out and said it, every indication is that they would prefer to have their top prospect open the year in Durham. I wrote about this Sunday and Joe Maddon had more to say today that sounded an awful lot like Price won’t be in Boston on April 6.

The manager wouldn’t bite directly when asked if he considers Price a “longshot” to win a rotation job this spring, but he did give this speech on the criteria under consideration:

“We’re looking at this from a developmental perspective, and with that, I think the changeup getting to become a better pitch is very big for us, the command of the fastball is very big for us, and then 130-some innings last year is very big for us,” Maddon said. “So we’re trying to consider a whole bunch of things with David, and we still consider him in the developmental process, whereas a lot of people, I think, see him as the finished product.

“That’s where the confusion lies, I think, from the outside looking in, and I understand that. I get it. I totally get it. Because if you were watching the playoffs last year you see him as the finished product, but we don’t necessarily see it there yet. But we don’t believe he’s far off. So if he doesn’t make it out of this camp as the fifth starter, we see that as being OK, because we have these other things that we think he needs to work on.”

Maddon acknowledged that if Price this spring “blows people away, things obviously can change, we can change our thinking—we always reserve the right to do that.”

Price, of course, said he “absolutely” wants to force them to do so. He knows they don’t want him to have a big jump in innings from last year, but said they haven’t really gotten into specifics with them and he doesn’t spend time worrying about it, other than wondering how they might restrict his innings—like pulling him after four or five innings if he ends up in Durham. 

“I don’t know what’s going to go on,” Price said. “I’m just here to play.”

In other news from Maddon’s morning session:

* Troy Percival will throw a bullpen session today and is on track to pitch in Thursday’s game. It seems increasingly likely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. “It looks as though he may be able to do that right now,” Maddon said.
* Jason Isringhausen will throw live batting practice tomorrow and should appear in a game this weekend. Saturday sounds most likely
* Grant Balfour is expected to pitch Thursday after taking a couple of extra days to heal the bruise on his right elbow
* Told that Matt Joyce hoped to be in a game by this weekend, Maddon said: “That’s nice to hear. I don’t know if it’s realistic or not yet.”

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