Grant Paulsen catches up with a
prospect every week on “Minors and Majors,” a weekly baseball talk show
on Sirius XM Radio. The show also frequently features Baseball America
writers and editors. Now you can read excerpts from these interviews
here at BaseballAmerica.com,
in case you can’t tune in each Saturday at 8 a.m. Eastern on Sirius
channel 210 and XM channel 175.
This installment features lefthander David Price, the top prospect in the Rays organization and the best pitching prospect in the game. Price was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, then made his professional debut last year and jetted all the way from high Class A to the World Series by season’s end. He was a key pitcher in the Rays bullpen in the postseason, and he reflects on those experiences as he looks ahead to this year.
Grant Paulsen: Am I wrong in assuming that you could very well break camp as Tampa Bay’s fifth starter?
David Price: There’s definitely an opportunity for that to happen. I’m getting a chance to work for a spot. There are obviously some other guys that are competing for the same job that I am, though. It’s going to be fun just to have this opportunity.
Paulsen: Have you talked with anybody with the club about their plans for you this year?
Price: I haven’t really had any conversations or heard a whole lot about where I’ll be. I know I’ve got a chance to be in Tampa Bay and that’s all I can ask for. I’m just going to take that and try to run with it.
Paulsen: How was the offseason?
Price: It was good. I didn’t do anything that great. I went out to Vegas for New Year’s. That was about the extent of my fun. Other than that I just hung out with my buddies and played lots of video games. That’s about all I did (laughs).
Paulsen: It doesn’t sound like your success changed your life any. What games are you working with now?
Price: Still the same games as before. Call of Duty. They also have a new World of War that came out. I’ve probably put about eight days of my life logged into that game. I’ve just been playing lots of that.
Paulsen: Some things have had to change. Do you get recognized when you go out now?
Price: A little bit in that sense, yeah. But other than that things really haven’t. I don’t really go out that much, though, so that isn’t a big thing. I’m not in public very much at all really. Not unless I’m going to the grocery store or going out to eat or something like that. To be honest with you, things haven’t really changed much at all.
Paulsen: How about autographs? I’ll assume you are signing lots more of those these days?
Price: Oh, definitely. That occurs more often but I don’t mind it. I actually kind of like it, so I just do it and don’t think much about it.
Paulsen: What did you do to prepare for the season over the winter?
Price: I just worked out at Vanderbilt all offseason with a bunch of players who came back to train at school. We always get some to come back, but a bunch of the guys came back this year. We all liked to get in there in the morning and get after it and then have the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted.
Paulsen: Did you work on anything specific?
Price: Not really. I was just working on stuff all around, I guess. I didn’t really target one area when I was working out. I guess throwing-wise I targeted my changeup.
Paulsen: What comes to your mind as you get going early on in another major league spring training?
Price: Just to enjoy it. I talked to a guy yesterday, Jason Cromer, who is in his first big league spring training. He’s in his 11th season, so I was happy for him. That’s pretty cool when you look at it like that. I’ve been lucky enough to have two spring trainings in the majors already—well this is my second one. But I’m just going to go out and play and have fun.
Paulsen: Let’s go back to last season. Start with your debut at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 14. Take me back to that day and to your warmups and your first appearance.
Price: Warming up I was sweating bullets. It was a Sunday day game and it was very hot. It didn’t help me any that I was as nervous as ever. Making my big league debut was already tough enough, and then on top of that I’m making it against the Yankees so that even put a little more pressure on. But it was a lot of fun and I couldn’t have asked for a better setting, which is what it’s all about. It was just lots of fun.
Paulsen: Did you tour the ballpark and go out to Monument Park before the game?
Price: No, to be honest with you I just hung out in the locker room. I got there before everybody else because me and my buddy caught a cab and we showed up before anybody had gotten in. I just kind of hung out and walked around the locker room and took it all in. I think it was the next day when I decided to go out to the field and go check out the monuments and everything.
Paulsen: You pitched in five regular season and five playoff games and never got hit hard. Did success in the majors come easier than you thought?
Price: It wasn’t easy, but it was what I expected. That’s what I expect to do every single time I go out there. I think that attributes to the hard work that I’ve put in, the coaches that I’ve had, my parents, and obviously God. He gave me a gift that he didn’t give too many people so I’m very appreciative of that. I feel like if you put in some hard work with that, good things will happen.
Paulsen: What’s the best way to describe the difference between pitching in the minors and the majors?
Price: I guess just the experience. Those guys have so much more experience and they’ve been in every situation you can imagine. They know what to expect and when to expect it and I think that’s probably the biggest difference for me coming from Triple-A to the big leagues.
Paulsen: How long did it take you before you felt 100 percent comfortable on a big league mound?
Price: After that first inning I felt great. My legs were shaking in the first, but I think I had a seven- or an eight-pitch inning. That gave me a ton of confidence and after I got through the first I felt fine. I felt like I was back to pitching on the mound at Vanderbilt.
Paulsen: You say your legs were shaking. Talk a little more about your nerves as you entered the game.
Price: My legs were physically shaking. It was hard to breathe and it was hot. There was a ton of pressure on me because of what I was trying to do in one year. On top of that, I’m facing the New York Yankees in their last season at Yankee Stadium and there are 56,000 fans there. It was crazy. There was just tons of adrenaline and tons of emotion.
Paulsen: You were that nervous in mid-September. How about a few weeks later when you were helping pitch the Rays to a World Series?
Price: That was another level. I’ve heard that playoff baseball is so much different than regular season baseball. You really don’t understand that fully until you experience it, though. I now completely agree with the people who say that. I can’t really describe it to you. It’s just a different type of baseball.
Paulsen: Were you more nervous in the playoffs than you were during your debut?
Price: You know what, against Boston I felt just fine. But when I stepped out there against Philadelphia in Game Two and we had, I think it was a 4-0 lead, I was really, really nervous. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was just because it was the World Series. It didn’t really hit me until I got called into the game. I remember when I was sitting out in the bullpen watching, and I was thinking that it felt like a normal game. I knew it was the World Series but it seemed like a normal game. Then when I got out there everything was way different. I don’t know how to explain it.
Paulsen: What’s the one moment you value the most about your time in the majors last year?
Price: It’s got to be being on the bottom of the dogpile. That was not only a great moment for myself but also a great moment for all the guys who have put in so much hard work and who put in so much more time than I have. So many more years than I have. I mean, I’ve put in what, 40 days? It just made the whole year worth it and seeing how excited they were was really rewarding.
Paulsen: Do you have the baseball you used to get the last out in the ALCS?
Price: Unfortunately I don’t. I think I saw on the video that Aki (Akinori Iwamura) puts it in his back pocket. Jed Lowrie grounded out to him at second base on a 0-1 pitch. He grabbed the ball and went to the bag and everybody went crazy.
Paulsen: And then he pocketed it and nobody asked questions. What are the rules regarding who gets the ball?
Price: I have no idea. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what was supposed to happen. I don’t know how that’s supposed to work.
Paulsen: What’s the biggest difference between Dave Price the pitcher today, and the guy we last saw in October?
Price: Just that I have more experience. I’ve been there and I’ve played at the highest stage of baseball that there is. A lot of guys who play baseball right now can’t say that, and I feel like that’s going to help me throughout my career.
Paulsen: After pitching in the World Series last year, do you feel like nothing will daunt you?
Price: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, I don’t think I can be fazed by a higher pressure situation because I think I faced everything you can face last year. That’s as high as the pressure gets. I’m glad the Rays let me experience that and I’m happy I did well in that role. I think that last year is just going to lead to a lot of confidence for me.
Paulsen: What goals do you want to reach for yourself this season?
Price: Whatever goals are out there, you know, I want to go get them. Whatever honors are out there, I want them. It doesn’t matter what they are to me. I just want to take them all.
Paulsen: What do you want to accomplish during spring training?
Price: I just want to make the team.
Paulsen: How will your success change your mindset?
Price: Well, it’s just that you’ve proven to yourself that you can get big league hitters out. I think that’s the main thing. There are lots of pitchers in the majors who don’t have the greatest ability, but they have the mindset that they know they can get big league hitters out. That’s why they are successful. They don’t have the 95 or 96 mph fastball or the tight slider. They pitch with what they have and they have the confidence that they can get big league hitters out. That’s the key to a pitcher being successful.