Rays’ Price aims to be baseball’s top pitcher
David Price isn’t content with being one of the best pitchers in
the American League.
Tampa Bay’s hard-throwing, young left-hander won 19 games while
helping the Rays win the AL East for the second time in three
years. Now, he’s eager to build on the success he had during his
first full season in the major leagues.
The 25-year-old finished second in the 2010 AL Cy Young
balloting behind Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, setting club records
for wins, ERA, opponents batting average and winning percentage. He
allowed three earned runs or less in 28 of 31 starts and also
became the youngest pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Dwight
Gooden in 1986.
And while Price enjoys hearing his name mentioned in discussions
about the top pitchers in the AL, he wants more.
”Absolutely. It’s not just about the American League. I want to
be the best pitcher in baseball, period,” the first overall pick
in the 2007 draft out of Vanderbilt said.
”If you’re the best pitcher in baseball, you’re the best
pitcher in the world. I feel like that’s something you can smile
about. Whether it’s in the American League or the National League,
I want to be the No. 1 guy in baseball. That’s what I play the game
Price reported to spring training this week, embracing his role
as the lead starter in a talented rotation that is being counted on
to help the Rays remain competitive after losing several key
players via free agency and trades.
He began last season as the No. 4 starter but quickly
established himself as the ace of a staff that became the first
since 1900 to feature five pitchers who finished with at least 12
wins and 100 strikeouts.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder was 8-1 in 13 starts following a Rays
loss, and his ERA of 2.72 was the lowest among AL left-handers.
Manager Joe Maddon expects Price, 0-2 against Texas in the
playoffs with both losses coming at home to Cliff Lee, to continue
to get better.
And while Maddon’s still hesitant to label Price as a ”No. 1”
starter along the lines of a Lee, Roy Halladay or CC Sabathia, the
manager said the young star is ”close” to being in that kind of
”I think David likes that,” Maddon said of the pressure that
goes along with being the leader of a pitching staff.
”I think expectations have been a part of his normal routine
for the last several years. So any attempt at elevating
expectations on this guy, I don’t think he’s going to react to it
any differently. I think he likes it. I think he loves the role. He
wants all this other stuff piled on him, and I think you’re going
to see the same guy. I don’t think you’re going to see anything
Price had 12 wins against teams that finished with a winning
record a year ago, matching Boston’s Jon Lester for the most in the
In addition, he improved to 4-0 with a 1.79 ERA in seven career
regular-season starts against pitchers who have been Cy Young
He’s not satisfied, though.
”I can get better. I want to go deeper into games. By doing
that, it’s throwing less pitches every inning. By doing that, it’s
walking less guys, forcing early contact. Just being more efficient
with the way I pitch,” said Price, who’s also motivated by a sour
taste left by Tampa Bay’s loss to the Rangers in the opening round
of the playoffs.
”That’s like falling short in the World Series,” which the
Rays did in 2008, when Price was promoted to the majors in
September and wound up making a huge contribution out of the
bullpen, picking up his first big league save in the Rays’
pennant-clinching win over Boston in Game 7 of the AL Championship
”You’ve got that taste in your mouth. Now you want to get
back,” Price added. ”You learned what you had to do that year to
get to that point. Now you need to push yourself a little bit
harder to get that extra mile. I know what I need to do to get back
to that point, and that’s good.”
Price spent part of the offseason with his old pitching coach
from Vanderbilt, working on his slider. He also found some time for
a trip to Oklahoma to pick up the Warren Spahn Award, presented to
the top lefty in baseball based on a combination of wins,
strikeouts and ERA.
”To be rewarded for the hard work that you put in, that feels
good. To be able to take your family and friends along for that
ride is even better,” Price said.
”Last year was a ton of fun. We had a great team. I threw the
ball exceptionally well. I felt like, for the most part, I was very
consistent. That’s what I wanted to do, go out there every five
days and give us a chance to win. I felt like I did that.”