David Price………………From Draft Pick to Playoff Sensation
Www.TheScoutingBook.com said even before the Rays made him the first pick of the 2007 Amateur Draft, David Price had already run up a polished resume, beginning with the 0.43 ERA he posted as a high school senior. The Dodgers drafted him in the 19th round in 2004, but Price chose to attend Vanderbilt on scholarship instead, where he became a powerful (if overworked) anchor to the school’s very strong rotation. When the Rays Price with the first pick in the 2007 Draft, the website. www.TheHardballTimes.com was gushing about the uber prospect from Vanderbilt University because of his aggressive finish to the plate. they also remarked that Price’s slow tempo to the plate and they began to think that what I said above about his tempo may be a tad nitpicky. This dude is good, really good. Leave him alone and let him pitch. Now that is a great scouting report…………leave him alone and let him pitch!
Price went 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and Division I-leading 194 strikeouts for the SEC Eastern Division Commodores. He is the fourth left hander taken with the top pick and first since Brien Taylor went to the New York Yankees in 1991. Price’s dominant season came to a surprising end in the NCAA regionals when his top-ranked Commodores lost to Michigan. In that game, he came on in relief and took his first loss of the year after striking out 17 against Austin Peay three days earlier. Projected as a future staff ace in the majors, Price has a fastball measured in the mid-90s. He mixes it well with an outstanding slider and change up.
Price did not agree to an $ 11.25 million, 6-year contract with the Rays until August 15, just beating the newly imposed signing deadline. Price, a hard-throwing left hander from Vanderbilt, is guaranteed $8.5 million under the deal, which includes a $5.6 million signing bonus. after singing, the Rays quickly decided the send their new prospect straight to Class A Columbus Catfish in the South Atlantic League. It is unlikely that he will pitch in any games until the Instructional League this fall under the direction of pitching coach Bill Moloney. But getting the extra time to work on mechanics and get used to the grind of the minor leagues will be a good education for the young southpaw.
After throwing in the Rays Instructional League during the off season, the young prospect performed great and was rewarded with a trip to the big clubs camp in St. Petersburg, Florida. Price came on and pitched his heart out before finally getting have his professional debut against one of the best hitting teams in the American League East, the New York Yankees. With a group of excited teammates watching on TV from the visiting clubhouse and a Legends Field-record crowd of 10,869 watching in person, Price stepped onto the major-league stage Saturday for the first time. And wowed them all. Using a live fastball that was clocked unofficially as fast as 99 mph, Price hit the first batter he faced, Yankees C Francisco Cervelli, then struck out, in succession, Shelly Duncan, Jason Lane and Wilson Betemit.
Even Price, who last pitched competitively on June 1 for Vanderbilt, was a bit awed by the radar reading in his first spring game for the Rays, a 4-1 victory against the Yankees. “There’s a lot of adrenaline, of course, being utilized,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said to the Tampa Tribune. “I liked it. The delivery was good, the ball was down, it was alive at the end. And again, it’s all about his composure. He walks in, this is his first professional moment, and he walks out there like he’s pitching against Clemson on a Saturday.”
Price, 22, said he felt a bit of nerves in the beginning during his morning warm up at Progress Energy Park but the butterflies were gone by the time the team arrived in Tampa. Once there, the baseball fan in Price came out. “Before the game starts, Johnny Damon comes over and shakes my hand and tells me good luck,” Price said. “You don’t think about that stuff and it happens. I’m standing out there down the left-field line kind of star-struck. I’m 300 feet away from Derek Jeter, A-Rod’s hitting. It’s definitely a lot of fun.”
Price threw two sliders, the rest fastballs, as he recorded 11 strikes in 17 pitches. He caught Duncan looking and got Lane and Betemit swinging on fastballs. None of the four batters he faced so much as fouled off a pitch. “When I got that last strike three, I’m running off the field and I’m tearing up,” Price said. “Because I hadn’t done that in so long. That’s easily, hands down, the greatest feeling ever.”
But his dream of maybe making the major league roster out of Spring Training were quickly dashed on March 11th when he was assigned to the minor league camp for assignment for the 2008 season. Price had an impressive spring. After being hampered by tightness in his left shoulder, the hurler appeared in two spring games, garnering a 0.00 ERA and retiring six of the seven hitters he faced. Following Spring Training, Price experienced a minor strain in his left elbow, and the Rays cautiously placed him on rehab assignment in St. Petersburg.
But first they wanted Price to pitch in one more extended Spring Training game on May 18th against the Yankees extended spring squad. But there was a method to all this madness as the Yankees had a prolific hitter in Alex Rodriguez on that squad who was down in the minors trying to rehab a right quad muscle strain and would be playing that game. Price twice got the three-time American League MVP to strike out, allowing Rodriguez one hit — a solo homer over the right-center fence at the Al Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg, the Rays’ Minor League facility.
The young hurler said the fastball Rodriguez hit over the fence was something he would “make a mental note” of and learn from. “He’s arguably one of the best players in baseball,” Price told MILB.com. Rodriguez had similar praise for the Price, who tossed a blistering fastball with speeds around 95-97 mph for the majority of his five innings. The young hurler previously topped out at 100 mph, in a Spring Training game against the Yankees. “I wish he was on our team,” Rodriguez said. “He has a very bright future. The Rays are doing a fantastic job of drafting these young guys.” After the game Price was notified that he would be joining the Florida State League Vero Beach Devilrays in Clearwater, Florida to begin his professional career on May 22, 2008.
Price did not stay long in Vero Beach as he spent only a month in Vero Beach before being promoted to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League. Price started 6 games with the Devilrays going 4-0, with a 1.82 ERA and 37 strikeout in 34.2 innings. He also was paired up with a pitching legend on May 27th when Pedro Martinez, who was down on a rehab assignment for the St Lucie Mets. Price dominated that game going 6 innings and giving up only 2 hits in the game with 9 strikeouts. Price gave up both hits to St. Lucie catcher Robinson Cancel in the contest.
Price quickly made his mark in Montgomery as he started 9 games for the Biscuits and went 7-0, with a 1.89 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 57 innings. He made a quick impact on the Biscuits pitching staff and made his Double-A debut against the Mobile Bay Bears on June 26th. In the contest he went 6 innings and gave up 4 hits and got 7 strikeouts in the game, winning his first start for the Biscuits. Price went to 5-0 on July 26th with his win over the Huntsville Stars. Price kept up his aggressive pitching until the Rays decided to promote him to the Triple-A Durham Bulls on August 11th.
Price got to work fast in Durham too starting his first game for the Bulls on August 13th, but came out on the losing end for the first time in his professional career in a 7-6 loss to the Norfolk Tides. In the contest, Price only lasted 4 inning and gave up 7 hits and 3 runs. But Price again took the mound on August 18th against the Indianapolis Indians and again had a rough outing as he went 5 innings and gave up 5 hits and 3 runs on the night. The International League was not giving the prized prospect of the Rays any respect for past efforts and Price quickly learned the distinctive differences of the minor league hierarchy.
Price took the mound for the August 23rd and again got rocked as he went 4 innings and gave up 6 hits and 3 runs and only got 3 strikeouts on the night against the same Indianapolis squad that beat him earlier in the week. % days later on August 28th, Price got his first Triple-A victory after going 5 innings and giving up 5 hits and only 2 runs to even his record at 1-1 in a 11-9 Bulls win over the Richmond Tides. Price then started the game against the Louisville Bats and posted his first post season win after going 5 innings and giving up 3 hits and shutout the Bats in the series opener.
In the International League finals against the Scranton-Wilkesboro Yankees on September 9th, Price was again roughed up a bit and lasted 6 innings, giving up 7 hits and 4 runs in the game, but he did post 9 strikeouts during his no-decision start that night. Price was on the bench on September 12th when Scranton finally got the better of the Bulls and took the International League crown with former Yankee starter Phil Hughes on the mound. But the sorry and disappointment was short lived as the pitcher was told after the game that he was being called up to the Rays while they were on their current road trip.
When the Rays finally brought up David Price on September 13th , he quickly got on a plane with Designated Hitter/Outfielder Jonny Gomes who also got called up to the big squad. You know that the conversation turned to what to expect for the young rookie, and Gomes might have been the right guy to sit near him and talk about this team. Gomes had been here from the beginning of the rebuilding process under Rays Manager Joe Maddon, but the Rays didn’t go the usual route to rebuild, they only had to tweak the system because of the depth in their farm system.
But Price did not get to wallow in the defeat at Durham for long as he quickly found himself in his major league debut on September 14th in Yankee Stadium coming in to relieve Edwin Jackson who had gotten rocked for 6 runs in 2 innings of work. Price quickly got to work and got his first six batters 1-2-3 to end the 3rd and 4th innings. But in the bottom of 5th inning, Derek Jeter took an 2-2 pitch and deposited it in the right field bleachers for a solo lead-off home run. Price then regrouped and quickly got the next three batters in order to end the 5th inning. Price ended up throwing 5.1 innings and gave up 3 hits and 2 runs to the Yankees, but overall threw effectively and with power.
Over the course of the rest of the Rays regular season, Price was used exclusively out of the Bullpen as a hard throwing lefty alternative to the slow throwing J P Howell and the medium speed Trever Miller. Price could come in with his overpowering fastball and slider and take over a ball game for the Rays. In his time with the Rays in September, he made 5 appearances and went a total of 14 innings and produced 12 strikeouts for the Rays. He did not get a chance for a win in his short time up in September, but that was just a prelude to post season and his ability to showcase his talents.
Price would soon show that he had ice water in his veins on the mound as the Rays began their first playoff games in their history. With their rookie pitcher ready and willing to do anything for the team, Price was added to the post season roster for both the American League Divisional Series and the American League Championship Series. Price did not have to produce for the team in the short lived series against the Chicago White Sox, but he did have plenty in the tank when the Rays took on their American League East foes, the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS series.
Price was ready at a moments notice and got his first chance during game2 of the ALCS when Rays reliever Dan Wheeler walked Jed Lowrie in the top of the 11th inning. Price came on with 1 out in the inning and walked J D Drew before inducing Coco Crisp to hit into a double play to end the inning for the Rays. B J Upton hit a fluke sacrifice fly down the right field line, and the Rays took the contest 9-8 and evened the series at 1-game a piece. Price for his 2/3rds of an inning got his first Major League win. But the Rays did not need Price’s services again until the top of the 8th inning when Chad Bradford ran into a little trouble and he came on to get J D Drew swinging to stop the Red Sox threat.
But it was in the top of the 9th inning that Price made his presence known inside Tropicana Field, when he came out to the mound full of fire and needing 3 outs to send the Rays to the World series for the first time. Jason Bay came up first for the Red Sox and worked the count to 2-2 before being issued a walk to start off the inning. Matk Kotsay and Jason Varitek both struck out on a total of 10 pitches to give the Red Sox one last out. Jed Lowrie then came up to pinch-hit for Alex Cora and hit into a fielder choice to second that Akinora Iwamura stepped on the bag and began the celebration for the Rays. Price was given his first career save for his actions and became the only rookie to post a win and a save in his first two post season appearances.
Price got his first taste of World series action in Game 2 at Tropicana Field in a mop-up duty for the Rays 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. That evened the series at 1-all and sent the series to Philadelphia for the next 3 games. Price went 2.1 innings giving up 2 hits, 2 runs and got 2 strikeouts on the night. Price did not get another chance in the series until the restart of Game 5 when he came on in the 8th inning for the Rays. Price went 1 inning and got 2 strikeouts on 20 pitches to get the Rays into position to maybe win the game. They could not convert in the top of the 9th and Price and the Rays ended their season while the Phillies celebrated out on the field.
The past years has shown the Rays faithful that this young left-hander will be here a long time. He has the composure and the talent to become a top fight starter in the major leagues for a long time. There is chatter that he will spend at least the first month back at Triple-A Durham to try and adjust to the Triple-A game before coming back up to stay in the majors. You can bet he will be here again by the All-Star break and this kid will not look back. He has the ability and the talent to alreay cement the number 4 slot in the rotation, and might be a number 1 or 2 within 3 years time.
Along with his maturity and confidence, the Rays got a true gem in this first round pick who boldly stated he would be back with the Rays hopefully by September. Little did they know that he has the stuff and the stamina to post one of the best post seasons by a rookie reliever. But when he finally gets to starting in this league, he will show his true colors and shine for a long time.
Photos included on this blog provided by Associated Press and RR private collections.