Rays’ David Price admits trade rumors have affected mood

David Price leads the majors with 133 strikeouts.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price admitted Tuesday what had become obvious: Trade rumors involving him had soured his mood.

Price’s media sessions in recent weeks before and after his starts had become awkward. But he appeared more relaxed in his most recent public comments Tuesday, a day before he’s scheduled to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in what could be one of his last starts at Tropicana Field.

"Obviously, I think about it," Price said of the trade rumors. "That’s why I’ve been in a bad mood for the past week and a half. So yeah, I think about it. You guys know that. And it’s nothing I want to talk about. I don’t have an answer for you guys. I don’t know why I’m going. I don’t know where I’m going. So there’s nothing really I have to comment on it."

The questions surrounding Price’s future as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears are nothing new. Since the offseason, there has been uncertainty about Price’s situation. The Rays have dealt significant rotation members before — right-handers Matt Garza (2011) and James Shields (2012) — and many thought a similar fate awaited the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner because of Tampa Bay’s desire to receive value for him before he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.

Price’s return to Tampa Bay this year was a sign that the Rays were confident in their ability to compete for a fifth playoff berth in seven seasons. But they’ve underachieved, and entering Tuesday’s game against the Pirates, they owned the majors’ worst record at 31-47.

"I thought that was the case last year, in 2013," Price said, when asked if Wednesday’s start could be his last at Tropicana Field

"It could be. I think it’s the earliest game we’ve had at the Trop all year long (a 12:10 p.m. first pitch). I have a tendency to get a lot of day games. I don’t know. I’ll be ready."

Price, despite the uncertainty, has pitched well. He’s 5-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 16 starts this season, but he owns a strong ratio of 133 strikeouts to 13 walks. He enters Wednesday with four consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts, and he has seven such appearances overall this season.

"Part of this is a business," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And you get caught up in the business component. Sometimes, that makes it uncomfortable. On the other hand, I think his performance has been great regardless of rumors or whatever his name being involved. I think he has done a wonderful job. Mood-wise, well, again, I’ve never been traded. So I don’t know what that would feel like. … I think part of it is complimentary. Part of it is this concern. So I think a guy like him has been through a lot of different moments and always has been able to handle it."

Price, with the Rays since he was selected first overall in the 2007 draft, must continue to manage the doubt. The questions will only grow louder.

"I’m still here, guys," he said.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.