Price is Alright

 


Jeff Zelevansky / AP

People are beginning to run theories and equations all over the web about what is going wrong with Rays uber prospect David Price since he came up to the Rays on May 25th. In his first start against the Cleveland Indians he lasted 3.1 innings, but the discussions were not about him losing that first start, but on the 5 walks he allowed against a team that is patient like the Rays at the plate. Price came up here basically anointed after the stellar performance he had for the Rays in the 2008 playoffs.

Fans were waiting for the Rays top prospect who during last season’s Spring Training predicted, or hoped he would be at the major league level by the end of the year. And his escalated move towards the Rays from Class-A ball to finally landing on the Rays roster seems a bit rushed at times. So the Rays did the prudent thing this Spring and decided he needed some polishing and work on his command before they were going to throw him into the fire with the big club. And that is pretty understandable, but the fans seemed to have other plans for the big leftie.

Now that Price has had 10 starts in the majors, and has come away with some positives and negatives, maybe this is a good spot to try and check the barometer on how Price’s early career wins and losses might effect him this season. We all know the guy can throw the ball with the best of them. You only have to look as far as his recent  July 9th start against the Toronto Blue Jays at home to see what he is capable of at this level. In that contest he went toe-to-toe with  American League uber starter Roy Halladay and held his own the entire game.  The southpaw threw 6.1 innings of 6-hit 1-run ball and also posted 7 strikeouts during the afternoon game.

He started to show that with the pressure on high and tight he could be relied on to make the right pitches and be in the right frame of mind.  But that might not have been the case during his first start on May 25th in Cleveland where he only lasted 3.1 innings and showed a small control problem by walking 5 patient Indians hitters.  Most people remember this game as the one where the Indians came back and scored 11 unanswered runs, not for being Price’s first start in 2009. In the contest he started off a bit wild by walking lead-off man Jamie Carroll, and gave up a double to Grady Sizemore, but he gained his composure and struck out the side on 17 pitches after that and looked to be on the good road.


Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

But in his first four inning lead-off situations in the Cleveland game he let three  lead-off hitters on base. This was not the defining moment to the loss on that night, but it gave a small light to a situation he would have to watch and adjust to all the way to last night’s contest. From the May 25th game where he let 3 out of 4 lead-off hitter reach base, to last night when he let 5 out of the 6 lead-off men reach base, it was a slight flaw in his game plan that has derailed him before. In his win against the Blue Jays just before the All Star Break, Price  let 3 out of the 6 lead-off batter get on base, but he adjusted and got the second man to the plate to either strike out or hit into a double play to take some of the pressure off him.

But unlike the Toronto game, last night against the White Sox he got victimized by the second and third hitters because of the pressure of the man on base.  Last night during the third inning is a great example of what is happening to Price right now. He gave up a Ground Rule Double to Scott Podsednik to lead off the inning, then Alex Ramirez got a single to rightfield to put two men on base. Price did get Jermaine Dye to strike out, but then threw one strike to Paul Konerko before he turned on the next pitch and drilled it to leftfield for a 4-1 lead. Not to be lost in the shuffle is the fact that Podsednik did it to Price in the first inning too. He got Price to lead off the inning with a walk and after moving to third on a steal attempt and a throwing error by Michel Hernandez, he came in to score the first run of the game on Dye shallow fly ball to right field.

Twice in last night’s game the lead-off hitter,Podsednik was responsible for effectively getting on base and then scoring against Price.  But this is not the first time this season that someone has had a big inning on the young leftie. We only have to go back to July 4th, in Arlington. Texas to see another example of a lead-off man wrecking havoc on a pitcher. In that game in the first inning the lead-off man for a change was not the culprit, but the next three in the order did ruin Price’s Independence Day. After lead-off man Ian Kinsler struck out, then Michael Young  and Marlon Byrd in the space of ten pitches had both walked to put two men on base. Price then got  a quick strike on Andrew Jone before he hit the next pitch into the leftfield stands for an early 3-0 Rangers lead.

 

Let’s throw another example out here before I try and seek or prognosticate some kind of reasoning here for the troubles. Price also had the same situation when the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies came to town during the Inter League schedule this year. In that June 23rd contest during Price’s 4.1 innings of work  3 out 5 of the Phillies lead-off men got on base against him. But to his credit, two of those men, Jimmy Rollins in the first inning, and John Mayberry in the third inning got on base because of defensive errors. 

But again it was a case of some early first inning problems that initially got Price in this game. After Rollins got on after a Evan Longoria error, Shane Victorino walked and Chase Utley made him pay with a double to deep centerfield that scored both men. In this start, the two runs in the first inning were enough to put Price on the losing end of the contest. In this game the Rays would eventually lose 10-1, with Price being hit for all 10 earned runs. But even with all of the early scoring off of Price so far in his first 10 starts, the leftie has also shown some fantastic moment of clarity and judgment.

Good example is the June  start against the Florida Marlins at home in which he let the lead-off man, Chris Coglhan on base with a walk, then Emilio Bonifacio on after an infield single to short, but regained his composure and retired the next three Marlin hitters to get out of the inning. He then came out in the second inning and sent the Marlins down 1-2-3 to show some spunk to the home crowd.  In the third he got two quick outs before letting Bonifacio walk and it would cost him. Price then gave up a single to Hanley Ramirez that scored Bonifacio and Price surrendered his only run of the ballgame.

From that point on, Price walked three more hitters throughout his start, but none of them came back to haunt him and were stranded on base. He was showing some of the guts and determination needed to survive in the major leagues. Some might look at Price’s 2
009 record of 3-4, with a 4.86 ERA as being a bad thing. But then other will look at the wins he has gotten against the Marlins, Twins and Blue Jays as stepping stones into the future. Seriously, how many people really expected the young gun to come out and truly go 10-0 in his first 10 starts?


Reinhold Matay / AP

I know there are some in the Rays Republic who dreams and wanted that, but the 3-4 record is really not as bad as it all seems.  In that span Price has gotten some really valuable experience and useful pitching techniques for the future. He is just beginning to get the major league strikezone imprinted into his mind and should begin to turn the corner in the next few starts. Everyone wants him to win, me included, but it is not always possible for that to happen. But in his recent troubles, you can point to two things that get him into situation every time.

First problem is with keeping the lead-off hitters to stay off the basepaths. In all 4 of his losses to Texas, Philly,Colorado and the White Sox, this has been a key element to his downfall. Mix that in with giving up a total of 9 walks in those 4 games and you get a ingredient for losing.  His walk total of 33 in 50 innings is a great indicator of some control issues, or just him trying to paint the black on the corner of the plate too much at times. Either way, when his walks go down you will see a more effective and more consistent guy on the mound.

And that take time. I really thought his break-out season was going to be 2010, and that is still a huge possibility for him. He might just use the rest of this season as a time to adjust his change-up and his slider to meet the needs of the game instead of trying to just fire it past people then leaving up a hanging breaking ball that he sees going into some fan’s hands in the game. The kid is magic, you can see it when he has everything going right for him on the mound. But the reality here people is that the guy is still learning to pitch at this level. His time in Triple-A in 2008 and 2009 have been a training ground to him coming up and performing this season.

He might have been a pre-season favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award, but right now he has to again win over David Price before he can gain the attention of us and the rest of the country. He could again be that guy on the mound if the Rays get to the 2009 playoffs, and he can again be the dominating pitcher he was in the lower levels of the minors and in college. Adjusting at this level sometimes has to be done during the game and not during the next Bullpen Session with your Pitching Coach. But I know he has the right stuff, and with it he is going to be the most successful drafted player out of the Rays system as a pitcher.

But for him to get to that next level, two thing have to happen. He has to just pitch and not analyze or even second guess himself on the mound. He will give up bad hits or innings. To just come out every half inning and view it as a new beginning might be the hardest part. Society dwells on things as a general rule, but as a pitcher you have to put it behind you and strive for more. I know that is probably easier said than done, but it a true sense of what Price has to do to take the next step. His control will come in time. Umpires will begin to give him borderline pitches if he consistently hit that mark.

But basically, for Price to be a success in the major league only one thing needs to happen. He needs to go after hitters from the get-go and establish himself early in the game. By not letting teams get early leads on him or rattling his cage he can develop a game plan and dominate. Sometimes I believe we put too much pressure on these guys to be “the man” way before they are ready to assume the role. For Price to reach that level of stardom the baseball world has already anointed him with he has to simple pitch his game and be consistent. The Rays have a shining gem in Price, let’s not dull him up before his time. 

20 Comments

Still gotta like in the park home runs!

Price will be ok. He still a greenhorn. People seem to forget that he’s still a kid getting used to everything. That includes the game, pressure, cowbells…but also life on the road with that constant “ok what city are we in?”, and attention that he’s undoubtably getting at every park he goes to. Once he starts to feel comfortable with that, he’ll settle down on the field too, knowing that he really is part of this team. I’ve watched many rookies go through it, as have you no doubt.

I’m still happy with the rotation, even without Sonny. They have bad days, they have great days…just wishing for great days now that they need to make that push.
Ginny
http://watercooler.mlblogs.com

Well Ginny,
I guess I will be the one to tell you this.
they are going to push Kazmir back one day and have Wade Davis come up from Durham to pitch on Wednesday night against the White Sox.
It will be Davis’s MLB debut, and he is the one pitcher I thought along with Price was ready to go this year at the MLB level.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Price has incredible stuff. Is it possible that his confidence isn’t high enough this year? Maybe he doesn’t fully trust his pitches and is afraid to really attack the zone. It makes no sense that he doesn’t throw strikes to the lead off hitters, that’s when you want to attack the zone the most. Mental? Possibly, it’s probably just more of an effect of his youth. I’m sure he’ll figure out his control in the near future and be a dominant force for the Rays for many years to come… let me know what you think though.

http://eatsleepmlb.mlblogs.com

Jonnn,
I agree with you in the confidence level in a few of his pitches.
He might not have the 100 percent faith in his change-up right now.
But I know the guy has the right stuff and can be a great pitcher. But as you know, sometimes the fans can be the hardest people to sell on a young guy.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff,

Gave you a shout in my blog. I hope you can tell me why Joe Maddon hates Ian Kinsler so much to ignore every chance to put him on the All Star team, because I can’t figure it out.

Ken

Ken,
I do not think it can be traced to a simple answer.
What I am hearing is that there was a list of the possible replacements, and Kinsler name was on the list, but not listed at 2 or 3 even.
When the Longoria situation came up, they could have broought Kinsler on, or Michael Young.
I know it can not be based on religion, because Maddon loves Gabe Kapler, who signed his contract for $ 1,000,018.00 this season.
I believe the “18” has a positive connotation in the Jewish faith. But I could be wrong.
Let me hit a few people and see if I can get you a better answer.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Price is a stud. He’s going to be great for the Rays in the future years. Eventually he will become the ace of that pitching staff.
-Dillon
http://dillonm.mlblogs.com

Dillion,
I agree with you. He is going to be a special part of this team for a long while.
Plus Jeremy Hellickson is maybe a year away, and this kid has fire in his belly to get to this level, plus a strong arm and awesome breaking ball.
Worst thing that can happen to Price ( knock on wood) is to get hit by the injury bug and it eat away at some of the best years.
But, the kid does a daily exercise program and is not a late nighter, so he has the personal maturity and development to go as far as he wants in this sport.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Rays – the “lack of confidence” bug. We have seen that in Boston with Clay Buchholz. The agonizing over every missed pitched, the inability to settle in….. I don’t know – are we bringing these young guys up much too soon? Are we trying to win games at the expense of their maturity in the game?

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Julia,

I remember a few seasons ago James Shields was on the Rays radar, but he did not have a set spot to take until he had a above average Arizona Fall League. The he was fast-tracked to the majors because he showed he had the mental stamina and ability to pitch.
We had another guy this past Fall, Rhyne Hughes, a first baseman who also had a break-out year for him in the AFL.
But he is not ready yet to make the leap, so he is in Double-A with a possible Triple-A leap sometime this year.
Some guys just click, and other need time.
I still thought Price needed time, but if he has to get better at this level, I am fine with it.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Is there any truth in the scuttlebutt I’ve been hearing about the Rays looking into Halladay?

I can deal with Kaz being pushed back a day, just not pushed out of the rotation. (But thanks for letting me know!) I’ve heard a great deal about Davis, let’s see what he’s got against the Sox and go from there.

Heard the Jonny Gomes had a pretty good night against the Brewers recently. Nice to see him back at it. Cincy is lucky to have him in the lineup. There are plenty of days I still wish he were a Ray.
Ginny
http://watercooler.mlblogs.com

Ginny,
It was a night of two ex-Rays going against each other, and Jonny won this time.
Seth McClung started the game for the Brewers and gave up the HR to Gomes.
I emailed Seth online and gave him a little chuckle at that, but they are both having good years.
Friedman would be insane not to at least offer some kind of package.
If he did not, I would ask for his job.
You have to at least call, make an offer and do everything possible to keep Doc out of the AL East.
Right now it is looking like Philly is the odds on favorite, but do not forget Milwaukee and St. Louis have some good pieces too in their minor league system.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff – If the Rays bump Kaz’s start by a day, he’d be against Halladay. They usually like to match Shields to him. Yet, Shields is pitching tomorrow. Do you see Kaz actually going against Doc? Or do you think the Jays will switch pitchers?
Ginny

If they bring up Davis, like there is a huge amount of chatter about then that could be the answer.
But if they do not, then Garza would get the honors since the Rays play a Thursday afternoon game.
I am thinking they might pop Kazmir back one start as a precaution, but it would not be needed in my mind.
He felt no pain or soreness yesterday during a Bullpen Session, so I would throw him tomorrow.
But as we all know, we can think whatever we want and no one listens to us but the people who read us.
Smart coaches and managers do not read the blogs or newspapers before a start,

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Sorry, I had to go help find my neighbors’ dog. He keeps getting out of the yard.
Seems that the coaches have some thinking to do. So far it’s listed as Shields, Kazmir then Garza. If they add Davis in and, like you say, play Kaz tomorrow then they could put Shields against Doc.
Kaz tomorrow, then Davis, put Shields in on Friday (against Doc), then Garza. But then that would mess the whole karma of the rotation. What a headache. We’ll find out soon enoigh what happens. I’m glad I’m not a coach!
Oh, and the latest from Toronto is they now don’t think they’ll trade Halladay – just heard it on the local news. Don’t know if it’s true…
Ginny

Is Price’s situation a blast from the Van Poppel past or a glimpse into the Stephen Strasburg future? Dunno. Maybe he’ll luck out and just be David Price and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. It gets even the best of ‘em.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Ginny,
I got this just before the 8 pm game time and I was going to save it for tomorrow, but Shields will pitch Wed, Kazmir Thursday afternoon, and Garza on Friday.
Kazmir threw a short side session today and Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey are confident in Scott to go on Thursday now.

As for Halladay. Sometimes that phrase “not going anywhere/trade” can just be wordspeak to have a double meaning. I think the Jays have at least two deals on the side, but nothing is blowing their socks off right now. Philly might have to include Kyle Drabek to get a deal done for Doc.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

When I played football I never read the papers or even tried to listen to the scuttlebutt.
But the difference in the sports is I could hide the noise in a helmet, and he hears everything on the way to and from the mound.
Plus to me personally, playing defensive football was a instinct-based sport. Baseball has the crowds so close, and the emotions so close to the surface that any anger or displeasure is viewed by everyone in the stadium or on television.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Hopefully, David Price will make adjustments similar to Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. He too struggled as a starter in the majors. He too had good stuff but tried to do too much and was not successful in his first starts of this season allowing 34 runs and walking 47. He is more focused, comfortable and confident now. In July, he has only allowed 3 runs in his last 5 starts. Kershaw came up from the minors last year and went back down only to return with issues (mental) this year that he worked through. Maybe it would not hurt to send the Rays best pitcher back to Durham until next year, call up Davis or try Sonnanstine again, trade Kazmir, and get Cliff Lee to run down the wildcard this year. Maybe Price can make a turnaround like Kershaw because our Rays need Price in his top form for next year. What a rotation in 2010! Shields, Lee, Garza, Niemann, Price

Realfan,
That was a great comparison.
Krenshaw did seem to have a few tweets last season, but he is going to be a great pitcher for a long time.
Price might be left up here to take his knocks.
For example he got a rude awakening today in Toronto and might finally see his change-up is not up to snuff right now for the MLB.
But that is what side sessions are for, and the Rays have one of the best that throw it in James Shields.
Price has the mental toughness, but lacks some control at moments, but that is what happens before you learn to adjust on the mound in the majors.
Great comment, than you for that!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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