Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 6/21/13
BRADENTON, Fla. To him, small things meant the most: Facing hitters, hearing a public-address announcer introduce a batter, listening to walk-up songs again. Minor things. Things often overlooked, but rhythms of a life all the same. David Prices work to return to the Tampa Bay Rays rotation continued with his first minor league rehab start Friday, the latest step in a recovery process now in its fifth week. Were there nerves for the skilled left-hander? Some. Was the sensation welcomed? Absolutely. I wasnt nervous thinking about how I would feel, Price said. I was nervous, though. It was the first time I had been out there in six weeks. My legs, they were shaking. I felt like it was the first spring training outing or the first game of the year. Prices path back to being a consistent presence in the majors included another milestone at McKechnie Field. He threw 49 pitches (29 strikes) in 2 13 innings for Class A Charlotte against the Bradenton Marauders, a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate. He allowed two hits, two runs (one earned) and two walks. He had four strikeouts. He evaluated the outing, which included the odd sight of him wearing a No. 40 jersey, this way: Im never satisfied, but I felt good. That was the important thing, of course. There had been moments of playing catch, throwing bullpen sessions and a 54-pitch simulated game in recent weeks. But this was the first time since he strained his left triceps in an abbreviated outing against the Boston Red Sox on May 15 that the game feelings came back. He had missed the rush. He had missed his place. A ton, said Price, on the DL since May 16. This is what Ive done my entire life. This is what I want to do my entire life. To be on the DL for the first time and to miss starts and not go on road trips and not sit in the dugout, its tough. By all accounts, the day went as planned. Rays assistant trainer Paul Harker was present to observe. Afterward, Price said he was uncertain about the next step. But Rays manager Joe Maddon has suggested in recent weeks that the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner could return in early July after making at least one more rehab start. The sights Friday were a reminder of how Prices progress remains an interest in the region. When he was introduced before the game, light hollers lifted from the sparse early evening crowd. There was applause from fans as he walked from the bullpen area to the visitors dugout before the first inning. There was a louder reception when he approached the mound for the first time, throwing to catcher Jake DePew. When his appearance was over I didnt throw as much strikes as I wanted, Price said he walked off the field to a standing ovation by some. He tipped his cap toward the stands. He smiled and waved. Game feelings. Game comfort. It was good to have that feeling back, because I hadnt had it in awhile, Price said. So I just came out there. Being competitive, thats what you want to do. He was back to being competitive Friday. And for him, in a continued effort to return, it was a welcomed change. You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.
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