Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Rays Star Shine Bright in Price’s Universe
15 may just be a series of number to you and me. The number 15 might not suggest or emulate anything out of the ordinary to us, but to one Tampa Bay Rays starter, it is the beginning of finally grasping that golden ring and encompassing a major breakthrough both for himself, and for his Rays club. 15 is usually associated with the time most of us get our first chance to venture onto the highways and byways with our parents in the passenger seat of the family car. But for Rays starter David Price, 15 is just a huge stepping stone moment to get to another huge plateau in his young pitching career…..His 20th win.
For some reason people put a major emphasis on that one two-digit number (20) as the initial entry point towards pitching greatness. Even with both Leagues giving relief pitchers more opportunities to take precious wins away from the game day starters, that illustrious number is still a symbolical threshold of establishing a lasting impression of pitching supremacy. And with Price now ¾’s of the way to that historical mark, each step forward in the wins column, Price will rewrite another strong pitching entry into Rays pitching record books.
For the past two starts, Price has shared the Rays record books with James Shields, Edwin Jackson and Rolando Arroyo as the only four-some to achieve at least 14 wins during a Rays single season. Last night, even with a few shaky moments, Price walked solo into the spotlight as the Rays lone 15 game winner. And with a possible 10 starts still on the horizon in 2010, Price could have a great chance to step to the forefront in Rays history with each start and could possibly become their first 20-game winner. But that 10 game slate is a long and perilous journey that could be altered or even reshaped throughout the rest of the season by Rays Manager Joe Maddon, or unforeseen obstacles or pitching limits later in the season.
Price could be the last Rays starter to take the pitching mound, in the last game of the 2010 season against the Kansas City Royals in Kaufman Stadium with a chance to establish another level of Rays pitching history. It would be another bright star in Price’s 2010 universe that has seen him quickly post 10-wins and maintain his uncanny control and command along the way. His extremely impressive start in 2010 provided Price with the great honor of starting the 2010 All-Star game after getting the nod from a rival Yankees Manager who could have chosen one of his own, but admitted Price dominated the competition early on in 2010.
Price is also beginning to get another extremely important reputation among his Rays teammates, he is becoming the team’s losing streak buster. With his win last night, Price effectively doused the Rays 5-game debacle streak that saw the Rays lose their last two contests at home against the Twins before getting swept in bold and uncharacteristic fashion by divisional foe, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays had the right cure for their losing aliment as Price had won his previous start against the Tigers at home in a 4-2 victory just a few weeks beforehand. Price’s 15th win last night came in his 21st start of the 2010 season and has pushed him to the top of the American League win list.
And for Price to see such success as such an early age is tremendous, and makes watching this young talent mature more enjoyable with each and every start. The last pitcher Price’s age or younger to be leading the AL or NL in wins on this date was Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who had 14 wins in 2006. Another star pushed right up into Price’s ever expanding universe that just seems to get bigger and bigger every day. To illustrate another impending star that could find its way into Price’s galaxy, ESPN currently has Price as the top points getter in their Cy Young Predictor on ESPN.com. High praise for a guy who always seems to have a calm and cool demeanor on his game.
And Price has developed that demeanor after posting some impressive and focused numbers so far in 2010. Price has surrendered less than 3 earned runs in 20 of his 22 starts this season. Another tasty Price pitching morsels include more strikeouts than hits allowed in 8 of his last 9 starts. The last time he gave up more hits than strikeouts was his first start after the All Star game on July 18th when Price gave up 7 hits versus 3 strikeouts against the New York Yankees on the road. But the cherry on top might be his .159 average with runners in scoring position this season. When the Rays have needed someone to shut down the opposition, Price has answered the call with authority.
But during 2010, Rays fans have kind of gotten spoiled a bit by Price’s success. We sometimes forget just how young Price truly is as he matches pitch for pitch with some of the best in the game every 5 days. To illustrate just how impressive this budding star has been in just the first half of 2010,at the All Star break, Price was the youngest pitcher in either league to lead the league in wins and ERA since the Twins Scott Erickson in 1991. Price was the youngest pitcher to start an All Star game since New York Met and former D-Ray Dwight Gooden (23) in 1988 and the youngest in the AL since Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen (23) in 1987. To fully put this into proper prospective, Price received his first All Star game on the player’s ballots, and had a total of 290 players votes cast for him. To show the early dominance of Price, that was 76 votes more than his closest competitor (Boston’s Clay Buchholz).
To further put Price’s rise into prospective further, Price’s 100 strikeouts at the All Star break made him one of 6 pitchers all time under the age of 25 to reach at least a dozen wins, an ERA under 2.50 and post 100 K’s before the break. Price was also the first to do it in 25 years since Roger Clemens did it in 1986. This all might seem a bit perplexing to Rays fans right now, but we are seeing the foundation right now of a pitcher who could possibly set the standard in the next few years in the American League. With 50 games left in the regular 2010 season for the Rays, the consistency and the calm of Price’s demeanor could be key to if the Rays gather a chance to win their division, or garner a Wild Card berth for the Playoffs.
Some might have found it bold of this left-hander during the Rays 2008 Spring Training to point out he wanted to be at the Major League level by September. Some might have found his bravado and calmness a bit alarming until you talk with Price and see that the cool nature of his personality makes you want to see him succeed. Stars can still be seen shining bright in the sky even with the urban haze in Tampa Bay. It is even better to see one more special star shine every five days as the Rays try to again make history within a small part of Price’s ever expanding universe.
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