04/12/09 1:43 AM ET
Price, Wieters face off in Durham
Top prospects collide in marquee International League matchup
By John Torenli / MLB.com
But for top prospects like Durham left-hander David Price and Norfolk catcher Matt Wieters, it's not about facing one another but making their way to the Major Leagues.
Price gave up two runs on four hits over 3 2/3 innings in his season debut and Wieters went 0-for-4 with a walk Saturday as the Bulls beat the Tides, 8-4, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Price dominated the Minors last season before bursting on the Major League scene by helping Tampa Bay reach its first World Series with a string of brilliant postseason performances out of the bullpen.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound southpaw went 12-1 with a 2.30 ERA at three Minor League levels last year before posting a 1.93 ERA in five regular-season outings with the Rays. But he was the odd man out of Tampa Bay's starting five when Spring Training broke.
Rather than lament his fate, Price embraced the opportunity to get his work in, albeit with a strict pitch count of 75.
"It's just part of the process," he told the (Durham) Herald-Sun. "I'm taking it as a challenge, to get through five innings with those pitches."
After waiting an additional 24 hours for his first start following Friday night's rainout, Price took the hill Saturday and appeared to be in top form early.
The 23-year-old Vanderbilt product breezed through the opening frame, capping it with a strikeout of Wieters, who went 0-for-3 in his season debut Thursday.
The second inning was rougher for Price as Oscar Salazar hit a leadoff single and Nolan Reimold launched a two-run homer, his second in as many games, to give Norfolk a 2-0 lead.
Scott Moore singled with one out and Price walked Donnie Murphy before escaping further trouble by inducing a pair of groundouts.
Price walked Wieters with one out in the third and surrendered another base hit to Salazar before getting Reimold to fly out to center field and striking out Jolbert Cabrera.
After striking out Murphy for the second out in the fourth, Price was lifted. He threw 50 of 74 pitches for strikes and fanned four while walking two.
"I felt good tonight," Price told the newspaper. "It's good to get the first one out of the way."
Wieters, MLB.com's reigning Minor League Player of the Year, is still being touted as Baltimore's catcher of the future. But he was informed near the end of Spring Training that he also would be starting the season at Triple-A.
After his two plate appearances against Price, the 23-year-old South Carolina native reached on an error in the fifth, struck out again in the sixth and flied out in the ninth.
The fifth overall pick in the 2007 Draft batted .345 with 15 homers for Class A Advanced Frederick during the first half of last season before hitting .365 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs at Double-A Bowie.
Many thought the impressive numbers would be enough to get Wieters a spot on the Orioles' Opening Day roster, but team chose to give him some extra seasoning with the Tides before what many predict will be an early-season callup.
With Durham and Norfolk scheduled to meet again in a four-game series from April 23-26 at Harbor Park, this may have been just the first showdown between Price and Wieters.
Then again, the next time they square off might be at Oriole Park or Tropicana Field.
John Torenli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.