Found April 08, 2013 on Fox Sports Florida:
These are different times for David Price. His offseason was spent, deservedly so, receiving the spoils of his American League Cy Young Award earned last season. His name has been mentioned, deservedly so, as a star who could command a contract that soon prices him out of Tampa Bay the lone franchise he has known in his five-plus-year major-league career. But the past week has served as a speed bump of sorts on the left-handers sprint toward the top. His line after starts against the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians should offer, at the least, a point of caution for the Tampa Bay Rays and possible reason for them, at the most, to worry: A rotation-high 8.18 ERA in 11 innings, including the surrender of a staff-high three home runs and 17 hits.All stats in April require a preface, of course. Anything lost or gained this time of year represents an impression, not a trend. Prices maturity and recent history he has produced an ERA no higher than 3.49 (2011) the past three seasons suggest the 27-year-old will escape the wilderness and find more familiar production. He is a proven commodity, not an unsure bet. Still, the season's opening week offered a touch of drama for the 6-foot-6, 220-pound power thrower from Vanderbilt. The Indians shook him for eight runs and 10 hits in five innings Sunday. (Entering the day, he was 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in six starts against Cleveland.) Is this the start of something worse? What has gone wrong? Im just fighting myself right now, Price said after the loss, which dropped the Rays to 3-3. Its tough. For as good as I feel out there on the mound, to go out there and be my own worst enemy, thats a tough thing to do. Ive got to get out of my own way and just throw the ball. Repetition is his best antidote for now. Manager Joe Maddon remains unfazed by Prices fight to be consistent. That trust from the dugout is excused and has been earned, and its partly why Tampa Bay has found success with its loose, but committed culture: Adversity within the franchise is viewed as an opportunity, not a hindrance, even with no shortage of obstacles given the market. Still, Prices reflection Sunday reveals some uncertainty for him. The Rays lost consecutive starts by him only twice last season: May 20 against the Atlanta Braves, followed by May 26 against the Boston Red Sox; and August 21 against the Kansas City Royals, followed by August 27 against the Texas Rangers. The results of the past week were rare, and they show how valuable of a commodity Price has become in a short amount of time. David was, obviously, not sharp, Maddon said Sunday. But hes not going to make any excuses about it. Im not concerned. Its just one of those days. But the Rays better hope there arent many more. Price left with a 3-2 lead against Baltimore on Tuesday, but he struggled with his command most of the afternoon. Then Sundays stumble was the first time he gave up more than seven earned runs in his career. Its too soon to say Price is slumping, but its fair for more than a few eyebrows to be raised. This is, after all, a game of trends. Price has become the Rays ace, but he relied on James Shields in recent years to carry part of the weight in the rotation. With Shields gone, Price will have more responsibility to be elite, to be consistent, to be another AL Cy Young Award contender in a year when his division appears as difficult as ever. That will be Prices test moving forward. Two starts into the season, its never good to hear a staff leader say hes fighting himself. The words hint that this test is mental as well as physical. Overcoming both aspects will be key in his attempt to return to normal. Its just one of those things where youve got to find whatever it is that clicks and stay with it, Price said Sunday. I just need to get better and keep working hard. Its not due to a lack of work. This was a very tough game. They put it to us today. It was very rough. The season doesnt have to stay rough for Price, and if recent history is a guide, it wont. But the opening week was a proper time to exercise caution. Was this the start of something worse? Its too early to tell, but it sure was different. What's Hot Matt Moore was the Rays most inconsistent rotation member all spring, finishing the exhibition season with a 3.80 ERA and a staff-high 14 walks in 21 13 innings. But he performed well in his season debut Friday, striking out eight batters and throwing six scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Indians. That upward mobility, coupled with a strong showing in his spring finale, should be taken as good news for Maddon and the rest of the coaching staff. This will be a season when all Rays starters must carry a heavier load with Shields gone, and with Prices early troubles, Moores progression will be studied closely. In the past, the 23-year-old left-hander has been a slow starter: He went without a victory in four April starts last season, his first full campaign in the majors. Including his five minor-league seasons, he began Friday with a 4.52 ERA in April and May. (Meanwhile, he has a 2.30 ERA in June to October.) With the spring hardship seemingly behind him, it will be important for him to stay consistent in the weeks ahead. What's Not Prices rocky two outings were troublesome, but Tampa Bays pitching as a whole proved to be a weak spot in matchups against the Orioles and Indians. The Rays rank No. 27 in staff ERA (5.50), leading only the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies. By allowing 10 home runs, Tampa Bay is one of six teams to surrender double-digit totals in the category, trailing the Brewers league-worst figure by three. Sure, its early, and one week is hardly enough time to judge a staff. Tampa Bay led the majors in ERA last season, posting a 3.19 total. Logic suggests Price will eventually work out of his funk, and Moore and Alex Cobb both looked decent in their debuts. Still, there wont be much margin for error in the American League East. Strong, consistent pitching will be rewarded, and the seasons opening week offered unkind returns for the Rays. Quotes of the week Without Chris Davis, we're 3-0. Ive seen a lot of guys hit the ball well against us in a three-game series. Thats the most locked-in Ive ever seen anybody. Evan Longoria, on the Orioles Chris Davis, who went 7-for-11 with 11 RBI and three home runs against the Rays. "Uneasy. Very uneasy. We play a bit better without the great expectations. I felt better about things without the expectations and, quite frankly, as we saw last year in our division, we had a team that could have won 100 games win under 70 (Red Sox) and another that could have won 70 (Orioles) beat us out in the playoffs. Great stuff.'' Principal owner Stuart Sternberg, on high expectations facing the Rays despite what is thought to be a competitive AL East this season. Its unfortunate and some other words I cant say right now. Thats what it is. Here we are. Right-hander Jeff Niemann, after being placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of right shoulder soreness. Earlier, late in spring training, he was assigned to the bullpen after losing out on a rotation spot to right-hander Roberto Hernandez. Numbers game 1,207: Consecutive games played by the Rays without using a free-agent starting pitcher before Hernandez took the mound during a 6-3 loss to the Orioles on Thursday. 19: Scoreless innings thrown by closer Fernando Rodney going into the ninth inning Wednesday, before allowing a run to the Orioles in an eventual 8-7 Tampa Bay victory. 2: Times Longoria has passed Ben Zobrist on the base pads, after a mishap in the ninth inning during the loss to the Orioles on Thursday. The same thing happened on June 27, 2011, in the sixth inning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Tropicana Field. You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

The Rays Sure Play a Mean Paintball

How does the old paintball adage go...a team that plays together stays together?  Let's pretend that's how it goes. Last month, while most baseball teams took to the golf course on their off day, the Tampa Bay Rays, well, they took to the paintball course.  Apparently reliever Kyle Farnsworth put together the squad...which included none other than 2012 American League...

Maddon has on field disagreement with umpire

ARLINGTON, Texas Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said he can often tell when an umpire knows hes blown a call by the look on his face. Ive seen eyes twitch, Maddon said after Mondays 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. The look tonight indicated, Lets run for the hills. Maddon said that look came from hope plate umpire Marty Foster, who apparently didnt get a good look at the final...

How badly did Marty Foster screw the Rays?

At the end of last night's Rays-Rangers game, home plate umpire Marty Foster called Ben Zobrist out on a pitch that was (clearly) a ball, as you can see in the video above. Also in the video above, you can see the reactions from Zobrist and Rays manager Joe Maddon, who were clearly displeased at the awful call. But while the call was clearly a disgrace, and Foster won't even...

MLB Injury News: Rays P Jeff Niemann heading for shoulder surgery

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann was believed to be in the running for the fifth and final spot in the team’s starting rotation this spring. Niemann eventually lost out on his bid, joining the bullpen. Throughout the spring, the lanky right hander struggled with velocity issues and a sore shoulder. On Monday it was revealed that Niemann will have to undergo shoulder surgery...

Rays, Maddon ready to move on from botched call

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon signed the lineup card for Joe Nathan's 300th career save and gave it to the Texas Rangers closer. Maddon considers the gesture routine for landmark baseball moments. This one ended up symbolizing his attempt to move on after home plate umpire Marty Foster's botched call on a game-ending strike three bailed out Nathan. Maddon blocked the umpires...

Rays bus hit on way to Rangers game

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- A bus taking Tampa Bay players and staff from their hotel to Rangers Ballpark was in a minor accident that didn't result in any injuries. Rays manager Joe Maddon says the bus was making a left turn soon after leaving the team's Fort Worth hotel Monday when it was hit by another vehicle. Maddon describes the impact as "innocuous" and "...

Umpire Marty Foster Ends Rays-Rangers Game on Awful Third-Strike Call (Video)

So maybe this is what that gong is for. On Monday it was revealed that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has had a gong installed in center field of Tropicana Field. While the use of the gong remained unclear, perhaps it’s for signaling awful calls by the umpires. On Monday evening, the Rangers traveled to Tampa to play the Rays. With Texas up 5-4 in the ninth inning, the team...

Jeff Niemann to have surgery, miss season

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann will have season-ending shoulder surgery after deciding rest wouldn't be enough to get him back to full strength. Niemann's surgery will be performed Wednesday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by Texas Rangers team doctor Keith Meister, who gave the pitcher a second opinion Monday. The 30-year-old Niemann estimated...

Video: Tampa Bay Rays unveil new 'kitty' mascot

Your browser does not support iframes.Move over, Raymond. There is a new Tampa Bay Rays mascot in town. Click this link to see who.

Unbelievable Game Ending Call As Rangers Beat The Rays 5-4

Well, that didn’t take long. Last night, on just the eighth day of the six-month baseball season, we got our first truly terrible call by an umpire. And the real kicker is that it ended a close game. Ball Four.. well that would be in the eyes of most except plate umpire Marty Foster who was the ONLY person in the stadium who thought that was a strike.. As you can see in the video...

Rays Will Wear Letterman Jackets to Boston as Part of Club’s ‘Themed Dress Tip’ (Photo)

The last time a team wore letterman jackets to Boston for a pro sports game, it didn’t work out too well for the boys in the jackets. The Tampa Bay Rays are going to try and change that around. Tampa manager Joe Maddon tweeted Monday that the club’s “first themed dress trip of the season” will see the team wearing letterman jackets on their trip from Texas to Boston. If you...

Second Thoughts Game #6: Indians 13, Rays 0

Player of the Game: Carlos Santana (5-for-5 with 2 2B, HR and 3 RBI) The Leadoff They’re back! After getting shutout by dominant Tampa Bay pitching two consecutive nights, the Tribe had the last laugh on Sunday as the team shutout the Rays, 13-0. Indians starter Justin Masterson was brilliant through seven innings of work, giving up just two hits and picking up his second victory...

Second Thoughts Game #5: Rays 6, Indians 0

Player of the Game: Alex Cobb (7 1/3 innings 0 ER 4 Hits 3 BB 6 SO) The Leadoff For the second consecutive night, the Indians were blanked by Rays starting pitching as they fell to their third loss in a row on Saturday, 6-0. Tribe starter Trevor Bauer while making it through five innings, showed fans and the organization that he needs more minor league seasoning, as he compiled seven...

Bo McKinnis primed to be next superagent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. There is a distinctive structure to the busy clutter that is the office of McKinnis Sports Management. For agency president Bo McKinnis, its a mix of preparation for an impending office expansion, the looming national tax deadline of clients, an accumulation of correspondence while constantly on the road the past few months, and an avowed packrat mentality that...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.