Rays refuse to rush David Price's development (cont.)
The Rays have closely monitored Price's innings for the year, and want him to go no higher than 20 percent beyond where he was a year ago, which would put him around 155 innings this season. Having pitched 136 innings already, he is well within range of that target. "I didn't know how many I had last year and I don't know how many I have this year," stated Price, who says the Rays have yet to inform him of their future plans for him. "They haven't said anything to me to be honest, and I haven't asked."
The Rays say their plan is to continue building him at 20 percent increments until he can face the rigors of a full 230-or-so inning season, which they hope includes pitching in the postseason. As the sport becomes more and more careful with the arms of young pitchers, how the Rays handle Price will be perhaps the most interesting test case in the game because of how important he is to their staff and to their future plans. As Hickey noted, "What's new [in baseball] is that now there are actual numbers out there, like the 20-inning increase, as guidelines. We were aware of it earlier, but we may not have taken it so far. We were never that meticulous about it. We're starting to get some good guidelines, not rules necessarily. You won't see us changing our philosophy. Us having younger pitchers in general, we have to take really good care of our inventory."
Price already takes good care of himself and has made a positive impression on those around him that goes beyond his statistics. Fellow pitchers marvel at a work ethic that has him make daily trips to the gym, and Hickey praises his "aptitude" and willingness to not simply rely on his ability to "out-stuff people." Maddon salutes his young pitcher's maturity. "He's so accountable, and such a good self-evaluator," says Maddon. "Even when he's had his ears pinned back, he has not cried one bit." Case in point: After holding the red-hot Yankees to two runs and three hits in six innings for a no-decision that Maddon deemed among his best outings of the year, Price shrugged his shoulders and said, "He's probably just saying that because it's the Yankees. I cost myself 15 or 20 extra pitches tonight and that's an entire extra inning."
After finishing his successful debut season, Price was asked to develop a third pitch to complement his high-90s fastball and darting slider, which he says is not as good now as it was a year ago. He got some advice on how to throw a changeup from the other Rays pitchers and spent the offseason developing it. By the time he arrived in spring training, "He came in with a major league average changeup," according to Hickey. "When he throws it right it has tremendous sink, almost like a split-finger fastball."
Though Price doesn't throw it frequently -- he used it just once in his 105-pitch outing against the Yankees on Tuesday -- he has shown so much potential with it that his catcher, Dioner Navarro, now compares Price's repertoire favorably with that of Yankees ace CC Sabathia. "They have the same stuff," he says. "I think he'll use [the changeup] more like CC. In the long run, that will be a pitch that can really help us."
What's said of the pitch could be said of the pitcher, too, giving the Rays hope that with further patience and development, their Price will be all right.
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