Price will be ‘more focused on Thursday’ facing former team for first time

Since arriving in Tampa this week, David Price has received a standing ovation following a video presentation in his honor.

Kim Klement

David Price admits he’s not thrilled about facing the Tampa Bay Rays for the first time since they traded him to Detroit last month.

While Price might have a difficult time harnessing his emotions Thursday at Tropicana Field, he’ll try to remain focused on helping the Tigers complete a three-game sweep of his former team.

Since arriving in Tampa this week, Price (12-8, 3.12 ERA) has played video games with his former teammates and received a standing ovation following a video presentation in his honor during Detroit’s 8-6, 11-inning victory Tuesday.

From September 2008 until the left-hander was dealt last month, Price went 82-47 with a 3.18 ERA in 175 games for Tampa Bay, helped the Rays (61-65) win the AL pennant as a reliever in 2008 and won the 2012 AL Cy Young Award.

It’s understandable he’d be nervous for this contest.

"Pitching against friends is always the worst," Price told MLB’s official website. "I’m definitely going to have to be a little bit more focused on Thursday.

"I spent a lot of time here. I built a lot of memories, made a lot of long-lasting friendships and stuff like that. Without Rays baseball, I’m not myself."

Like those within the Rays organization and their fan base, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon feels Price returned the favor.

"(Price is) a big part of the Rays becoming the Rays," he said. "When he gets into the Hall of Fame, hopefully he goes in there as a Ray."

Since the three-team trade July 31, Price is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA. The best of his three starts for Detroit (68-56) came Saturday when he allowed a run and three hits over eight innings and bested Felix Hernandez in a 4-2 victory over Seattle.

"He’s been what we’d hoped for," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Price, who can become a free agent after this season. "He certainly has not disappointed."

Price will oppose good friend Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.19), who still has a hard time grasping that the longtime face of the Rays franchise is no longer in town.

"It’s just weird. The normal is not the normal anymore," Cobb said. "It’s just something you don’t want to get used to, but you do eventually get used to it."

While Price will be the focal point Thursday, Cobb has been stellar while going 6-0 with a 2.24 ERA in his last nine starts. The right-hander has allowed four runs and struck out 40 while walking seven in 34 innings to go 3-0 in the last five.

Cobb gave up six hits and fanned eight in 7 1-3 innings of a 5-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday.

He allowed three runs and five hits over five-plus innings in a 6-3 win at Comerica Park on July 4 to improve to 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts against the Tigers.

Victor Martinez is 2 for 8 against Cobb, but is hitting .429 with two homers and nine RBIs in his last six games versus Tampa Bay. Martinez hit a grand slam and drove in five while Rick Porcello tossed a three-hitter in Wednesday’s 6-0 victory.

A winner in five of seven following a 2-7 stretch, Detroit is trying for its first series sweep at Tampa Bay since 2009.

Though the Rays have dropped four in a row, Ben Zobrist is batting .426 during a 14-game home hitting streak. He’s 11 for 22 in the last five against the Tigers overall.