PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — He knows anything is possible, but left-hander David Price had good reason to be excited when he arrived for pitchers’ and catchers’ report day at Charlotte Sports Park.
He remains in the only major-league jersey he has known.
After months of trade speculation, and even some personal doubt about his future, Price arrived Friday at the Rays’ spring-training complex eager to move forward with cautious optimism that he will remain with Tampa Bay for the near future.
At this time, that’s good enough for him.
"I’m very excited," Price said with a smile. "I think everybody here knows and everybody around baseball knows how much I enjoy it here. I’m happy to be back."
There’s little doubt Price’s teammates are happy as well. He offers the known resume — a three-time All-Star, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award, a solid background as an ace — but the stability he brings as a clubhouse leader since his rise as the 2007 draft’s first-overall pick is just as important.
Price’s presence here, in some ways, is a pleasant surprise for the Rays. He said he left Tropicana Field last October after cleaning out his stall expecting to be moved. With two seasons left until he’s eligible for free agency, Tampa Bay could have used his value to secure proven major-league talent and high-end prospects.
But that possibility never happened.
"It was unknown," right-hander Chris Archer said. "I knew that there was a possibility he wouldn’t, and I knew there was a possibility he would be. The fact that he’s here today, Feb. 14, means a lot."
Such a move would have followed a precedent set by trading right-hander Matt Garza in 2011 to the Chicago Cubs and right-hander James Shields in 2012 to the Kansas City Royals. Price said he thought interest in him would increase after the New York Yankees signed right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155-million deal in January.
However, as the weeks passed, no news followed. Price, 28, could still be traded anytime before Opening Day, of course. But he and the Rays agreed to a one-year, $14 million deal in January to avoid arbitration, and there’s some comfort for him knowing he’s made it this far past an unfamiliar offseason.
"There were definitely a couple little markers that I thought would get the market going," Price said. "Fortunately, for me and our team, it just didn’t happen fast enough. I think everything played in my benefit to stay here this offseason. Maybe that’s just a sign, and we’ll take it from there."
Added right-hander Alex Cobb: "You can have all the talent in the world on the field. There’s another aspect in the clubhouse with certain leaders inside of your clubhouse. He brings that dynamic to the team."
JEREMY HELLICKSON UPDATE: Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson continues his rehab after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow Jan. 29. He said he’s doing arm exercises as part of his recovery.
Though he’s expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the regular season, he said his pain level has improved.
"Two, three days after, it felt great," he said. "Just the day after, it was kind of stiff and tight. But ever since that third day, it has felt really good."
DOLPHIN INSPIRATION: Cobb’s proposal last weekend to his girlfriend, Kelly Reynolds, went viral with help from the animal kingdom. He popped the question via an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, which held a buoy that read, "Kelly, will you marry me?" as the couple swam at Discovery Cove in Orlando.
How was the proposal devised? Some innocent brainstorming, of course.
Turns out, Chris Westmoreland, the Rays’ director of team travel and clubhouse operations, played a key role.
"Just little thoughts back and forth talking to different people and then (I) got to the clubhouse with Westy in the offseason, and he told me he knew some people there who would be happy to help with setting something up," Cobb said. "I got to talking, and I just kind of came up with the idea. It was pretty fun."
RYAN HANIGAN’S STAR DOG: Price isn’t the only Rays player with a famous dog.
On Monday, new catcher Ryan Hanigan saw his Copperridge What’s Your Dream — known as Vivian — selected as the best of its breed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show out of 44 Australian shepherds entered.
Consider Hanigan proud.
"She had a lot of success," he said. "It was kind of a surprise, I’m not going to lie. It was awesome. I was really proud of her. She did awesome, and I’m definitely getting a lot of publicity for this."
Perhaps Vivian and Astro — Price’s French bulldog — will become fast friends.
JOE MADDON’S RV LIVING: Always creative, Rays manager Joe Maddon found a new way to experience spring training. He’ll live from his 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton recreational vehicle, which includes four TVs, 1 1/2 baths, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, a king-sized bed, two fold-out beds, satellite radio and a GPS system.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon will enjoy his time away from the field this spring training in a new 40-foot RV.
He made the $300,000 purchase shortly after the All-Star Break last season. One downside: He estimates the vehicle only receives about eight or nine miles to each gallon.
"If you’re looking for that 10-15 mile-per-gallon thing, it ain’t going to happen," Maddon said.
"It’s extremely comfortable. "It’s kind of like a nice hotel — a nice suite in a hotel. That’s what you can kind of feel."
The Rays’ annual spring training news conference with Maddon and Andrew Friedman, the team’s executive vice president of baseball operations, was held next to the vehicle Friday. Later, reporters were allowed to tour it with Maddon.