So the big news out of Rays camp is that David Price will start the season in Durham. While that might be good for Dave over at Fielders Choice it seems the some fans aren’t taking it well. It is kind of expected. After all, most of these “fans” weren’t around last spring when the same thing happened with Evan Longoria. I do seem to remember quite a bit of gnashing of teeth when he was sent down at the end of the spring last season. Last time I checked that seemed to work out alright for everyone.
I think Friedman and Co. have earned the benefit of the doubt over the last few seasons so I’m going to roll with the them on this one. Also, it makes the most sense for the parties involved. It gives the Rays some time to work out the Jeff Niemann / Jason Hammel situation (my prediction is Niemann stays and Hammel is traded or claimed on waivers). Plus, as an added bonus, they keep Price under team control for an extra season or so.
For Price he gets a chance to work on becoming a more dominating pitcher than he already is. He was able to electrify the crowd during the post season with only his fastball and slider. While that might work for a reliever, it’s not going to work for someone who is projected to be a front line starter. He needs to develop the change up and the Rays can’t afford for him to do that in the majors.
According to Baseball Reference the first time through the order opponents hit .100 against him. The second time through the average went up to .276. While it’s a limited sample (only 17 plate appearances) it’s indicative a pitcher that only has limited options in getting a hitter out. That’s where the importance of the change up comes in. Having three solid pitches will allow him to keep hitters guessing during their second and third at bats.
On the afternoon radio show the host, a man of strong opinions, questioned a caller who supported the decision. He asked his caller if he thought Price was “one of the five best pitchers on the staff right now”, and then proceeded to berate him when the caller replied in the negative.
Here’s the thing, right now, Price is not one of the best five starters the Rays have. Will he be one day, and one day soon? Of course, but right now he doesn’t give them the best chance to win. The rotation looks to be set with Shields, Kazmir, Garza, Sonnanstine and Niemann. Price will benefit from a regular spot in Durham where he knows he’s going to go out every 5 days. If was the number 5 on the Rays he may only get 3 or 4 starts in April due to off days and rainouts.
Do I buy the 170 inning rule that management is pitching? To a certain extent I do. I don’t think it’s a hard and fast number, but I’m sure they want to keep him around that number. They may be accused of “babying” him along, but too many young phenoms have been rushed to the detriment of their career.
If you want a case in point check out the career of Mark Prior. He threw 116 innings in his rookie year, skyrocketed to 211 the next year and has battled arm injuries since then. Would you like one solid year for Price or a long career of solid years.
That’s what this move is all about - longevity. If things go as planned Price will be the foundation of the rotation for many years to go. If handled properly then those many years will hopefully be injury free.
This isn’t meant to bash young David Price. I have a feeling he is going to be a 20 game winner in the majors, just not this year. One great post season does not a great pitcher make. The postseason did show what he was made of - brass cojones. Now he just needs to harness the million dollar talent.
It will be fun to listen to the experts rant and rave on the radio/TV/internet for a few months, but in the long run it’s just going to be a lot of empty noise.
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