Price rebounding after early letdown
Minors demotion no longer distraction for top prospect
Rays pitcher David Price admits his demotion to Triple-A this spring was a tough pill to swallow.
"I wasn't right really mentally the first part of the season," Price said.
Traces of the 23-year-old's frustration -- while not overly apparent -- were there in each start, as Price struggled with control and didn't make it out of the fourth inning in three of his first five games.
While the short stints were partially due to the Rays' initial 75-pitch rule, Price said he struggled in adjusting to life back in the Minor Leagues.
The top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Price flew through the Minors last season and made his Major League debut in relief on Sept. 14. The talented lefty was the Rays' secret weapon out of the bullpen, going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 2 1/3 innings during the ALCS, and claiming the win in pivotal Game 2. In two World Series appearances, Price had a 2.70 ERA and was believed to be in contention for a spot in the Rays' rotation coming out of Spring Training.
Instead, he was sent to Triple-A Durham, where the Rays hope to restrict his innings and carefully monitor Price's progress.
His early struggles may end up being an added bonus.
"That's part of development," Bulls manager Charlie Montoya said. "You want to see how kids react when things aren't going their way, and he reacted the way I thought he would. He said, 'OK, I'm going to battle my way through this.' And he did."
In his latest start on Sunday night, Price tossed five no-hit innings and collected a season-high nine strikeouts. Frequently ahead in the count, Price used his devastating slider and improved changeup to allow just two runners to reach base on a pair of walks.
More telling still was the 82 pitches Price was allowed. Montoya said he talks with Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman on a daily basis, and Friedman raised Price to a 90-pitch limit following a visit last week.
"Price is making good progress on the things we laid out for him from a developmental standpoint," Friedman said. "He has pitched extremely well of late. We are very confident that he is going to help us win a lot of games in 2009, and beyond."
And Price -- who admits he would "love to go [to the Majors] tomorrow if he could" -- is committed to staying within himself regardless of his surroundings.
"I have to get myself in the right state of mind where it doesn't matter which level I'm pitching at -- I need to throw like David Price," he said. "And that's not walking three or four guys and throwing 3 1/3 innings. That's not what I've had happen in the past, and that's not what I want to start doing now."
"I'm starting to really throw the ball [and] feeling good out there."
And while the Rays are mum about a target date, Montoya is sure of one thing.
"There's no rush at all," he said. "Whenever he's ready, they are going to call him up. Whatever happens, happens, because when he goes up, we don't want to see him back."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.