Tampa Bay’s Price has high expectations for 2010 | NevadaAppeal.com

Tampa Bay’s Price has high expectations for 2010

AP Baseball Writer

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) – Tampa Bay’s David Price peered into a corner of the Rays clubhouse, where reporters were interviewing some of his teammates, and smiled.

A year after being a focal point of spring training while trying to earn a spot in the pitching rotation as a rookie, the hard-throwing young left-hander is going about his business quietly.

“Last year I’ve got 20 reporters over here, and every day I threw it’s TV cameras and everything. Now it’s not going to be that way,” Price said, adding he welcomes the opportunity to use the next five weeks to prepare for the season rather than try to prove he belongs in the big leagues.

“I can enjoy this time. I can work on stuff I want to work on and not go out there and try and demand results. I know I could have done that last year. That’s what they told me, and I completely understand that. But to me, I had to go out there and throw good numbers up if I wanted a chance to make the team out of camp.”

While for many it was a foregone conclusion that Price would begin last season in the majors after helping Tampa Bay reach the World Series in 2008, the Rays weren’t in a hurry to rush his development.

The 24-year-old made his big league debut less than four months after his first pro outing, joining the Rays in a September call-up and making five relief appearances during the team’s surprising postseason run.

He won Game 2 of the American League Championship Series and earned his first save by getting the final four outs of the club’s Game 7, pennant-clinching victory over the Boston Red Sox.

When he didn’t make last year’s opening-day roster, largely because the Rays wanted to monitor the number of innings he pitched in 2009, Price was crushed.

“I had success on the highest stages of baseball in the biggest situations. I had to go back down to Triple-A. That’s a little bit of a shock to the system. I went from pitching in front of 40,000 or 50,000 to pitching in front of four or five,” Price said.

“I probably didn’t handle it right at first. I probably felt a little bit bad for myself. … I got a taste of my dream and I got it removed from me.”

While he’s still not sold on the idea that returning to the minors was beneficial, his confidence in himself never wavered.

Price was back in the majors by the end of May and went 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 23 starts. He rebounded from losing four of his first seven decisions to go 7-3 with a 3.58 ERA over his last 12 outings.

Despite leading the Rays in wins after the All-Star break, he felt he underachieved as a rookie.

“Everybody here told me I was right on pace for what they envisioned for me. But not for me. I don’t handle failure that well,” Price said, adding he “absolutely” feels he’s starting this spring training under the radar.

“This year, I can work on that 3-1 changeup. I can throw that 2-0 curve ball if I want and not have to worry about it. … This is my first chance to get ready for a season, not have to worry about anything else. The emphasis is no longer on me.”

Price is part of a young rotation that’s one of the reasons Tampa Bay has a chance to be a contender for years.

James Shields is the eldest at 28. Matt Garza, the 2008 ALCS most valuable player, is 26. Jeff Niemann turns 27 this weekend, and Wade Davis – one of three rookies in the rotation at the end of last season, along with Price and Niemann – is 24.

Manager Joe Maddon thinks each is capable of pitching 200 innings this year. That sounds more than reasonable to Price, who added he and the others don’t feel burdened by high expectations.

“We are a very confident bunch,” he said, noting he also has some personal goals that have no “roof,” including becoming a 20-game winner.

“I don’t see why not. … You can’t come in here and not expect to have some success,” Price said. “If I came up and said I want to go 10-8 this year, no, that makes me want to throw up.”