His night finished after a not-so-encouraging, 80-pitch Triple-A debut, Durham lefthander David Price hardly had reason to smile.
When he was asked to critique his start for the Bulls against Norfolk on Wednesday night, Price didn't sugarcoat it—especially when it came to what pitches the Tides hit. After all, they recorded seven of them in four innings.
"Everything," Price said. "It's Triple-A. It's as close to the big leagues as you're going to get, so they're going to hit good pitches, they're going to hit bad pitches, and that's what they did."
With Tampa in the thick of the American League East race, the Rays' decision to advance Price, the first overall pick out of Vanderbilt in 2007, to the International League this week signaled that the lefthander could be a down-the-stretch contributor.
In all, Price allowed three runs on those seven hits. But he did strike out six Norfolk batters, including five of the six lefties he faced. He also did not issue a walk. It could've been worse. It could've been better.
And for a 22-year-old making his Triple-A debut, Price managed to tune out some unnecessary, pre-game distractions, including the Bulls broadcasting a taped interview with Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics on the stadium's mega-video board—as the lefthander warmed in the bullpen. Weather conditions also were not ideal, as it rained most of the day Wednesday, though it had cleared by game time.
Price showed plus life on his fastball as it sat at 92 mph and touched 96 on the stadium radar gun. He at times punched in a sharp slider that often registered 87. For the most part, Price worked in the bottom half of the strike zone, allowing only one extra-base hit (a double to Eider Torres) and generating three groundouts compared with one fly out.
Through two innings, all was going swimmingly: Price struck out the side in the first inning, battling after a one-out double and two-out, run-scoring single. He then worked around a two-out single in the second.
But Price fell into trouble immediately in the third when he allowed three singles as he struggled at times to locate. Then Durham third baseman Joel Guzman compounded the situation when he misplayed a potential double-play grounder. Luis Terrero's chopper tied up Guzman, who misread the hop and had to bring his glove up by his hip—but he failed to corral it.
Two runs scored, and Price then allowed a single to the next batter.
But working primarily with his fastball and slider—and changing speeds on his fastball—he followed with a strikeout of Freddie Bynum before Norfolk bailed out Price by hitting into a double play—on a fly out to left field and throw-out at the plate.
"I felt fine," Price said. "I didn't walk anybody. I battled, I threw strikes . . . not enough strikes, but I still threw strikes. I made them put the ball in play, just caught some bad breaks and it happens every now and then."
"Unfortunately I only threw four innings," Price added, "but I'll work on that next time I'm out there."