More adversity for David Price after injury-shortened start

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Early in the third inning on Wednesday, Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price was presented another obstacle in a season of many for him, another strange turn that will test his resilience in what is already an uncommon year for the ace.
 
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner had to leave the game against Boston because of left triceps tightness that leaves his next start in doubt.
 
It’s hard to tell what’s to follow. Following his team’s 9-2 loss to the Red Sox at Tropicana Field, Rays manager Joe Maddon said results from an MRI looked positive and that Price will be re-evaluated on Thursday. Meanwhile, Price smiled as he said, “I’m not, no,” when asked if he had ruled out making his next scheduled appearance, set for Monday in Toronto.
 
“This is something I take pride in, being available every fifth day and being out there for my team,” said Price, who threw 57 pitches in 2 1/3 innings before motioning toward Maddon, head Rays athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and pitching coach Jim Hickey after feeling a sensation he had never experienced before. “I don’t know how that’s looking right now.”
 
Whatever the outcome, Wednesday’s event meant another struggle for Price. This season, only six weeks old, has included pain through multiple pinpricks: the heightened profile after winning the Cy Young Award … the early doubts after being held without a victory in his first five starts … the repeated questions about the velocity on his fastball, which at times has been a few ticks slower than last season … the odd verbal spat with umpire Tom Hallion on April 28 in Chicago … the blurred vision because of allergy issues revealed Tuesday … now the left triceps strain.
 
This was never going to be a normal season for him. That much was clear in spring training, when questions about his future — Will he become too expensive for the Rays? — were fielded to him, Maddon and principal owner Stuart Sternberg. Add to that an assumed larger leadership role after right-hander James Shields was traded to the Kansas City Royals last December, and little about this summer was going to be similar to the last.
 
Only Price knows how much peripheral factors, both internal and external, have impacted his play. Each athlete, no matter the stage, manages adversity in personal ways. Expectations seemed to weigh on LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals. Tiger Woods still searches for his first major championship since 2008, after his private life became wrecked. Later this fall, we’ll learn how Darrelle Revis handles a transition with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee sustained last September.
 
“David is really, really good,” Maddon said. “He’s going to handle this moment, I believe. … He’s going to be well. I don’t think it’s anything serious from what I’m hearing. So hopefully, it’s going to be just a couple days, and we’ll figure out what we’re going to do tomorrow.”
 
So much about sports is mental — what happens in the head separates stars from the mere good, after all — but physical fortune is important as well. Former National League Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones can relate to Price’s situation. Jones, the 1976 winner as part of the San Diego Padres, sustained an injured nerve in his throwing arm in the last start of his Cy Young Award-winning campaign. That year, the left-hander earned a 2.74 ERA in a career-high 315 1/3 innings.
 
Jones finished with a career-best 22 victories in 40 starts that season. But it came with a cost: The nerve injury lingered into the following season, and he struggled to stay healthy during a summer in which he went 6-12 with a 4.58 ERA.
 
“Mine was kind of unique and frustrating,” Jones told FOX Sports Florida about his experience the year after winning the Cy Young Award. “In the last start of the ’76 year, when I won the Cy Young Award, I snapped that nerve in my arm. Once I did that, I had to rehab through that. It was a question of whether that nerve was going to regenerate, because I couldn’t fix it.
 
“How you are mentally (is important), then another thing is how you are physically in that scenario. I just kind of got bamboozled by the injury.”
 
Like Jones then, Price must react to physical adversity. Price’s situation doesn’t seem as severe, but there are parallels between the two. Mainly, both examples show how much of a grind life can be after winning a Cy Young Award.
 
Jones went on to pitch five more seasons after the frustrating ’77 campaign. Now that he’s two decades removed from the slide, he only recalls the high moments. Likely, the same will apply to Price in years ahead. Likely, this stretch will be wiped from memory. But for now, there are more questions.
 
“The struggles don’t usually come up,” Jones said. “I think everybody remembers the glory years, ’76. … It was just magical. It was a magical year for our fans and for me.”
 
For Price, the shine of 2012 can return, but it seems more distant after he walked toward the dugout Wednesday after an odd delay. For now, there are more unknowns, only more adversity.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford

or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.