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Price Tagged as Starter

David Price, Tampa Bay Rays STARTING pitcherAnybody who saw that slider David Price threw to J.D. Drew in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the ALCS, with two outs and the bases loaded, knows just how talented this guy is.

“All I know is that the AL East better be ready,” said veteran DH Cliff Floyd. “He makes it look easy.”

Price, a 6′ 6″ left-hander, throws 90-94 and tops out at 97. With his size, he can easily take that velocity into the late innings. His fastball tails away from right-handed hitters. Price throws a nice changeup and works quickly on the mound. But, his best pitch is that nasty slider. Price throws it at 87 and it breaks sharply and late in the pitch.

The thing is, he’s not even a reliever really. Price pitched 19 games at the A, AA, and AAA levels in 2008 amassing 109 strikeouts, a 12-1 record, and 2.30 ERA. Once called up to the Rays, Price pitched four times in relief and had one start for a 1.93 ERA prior to earning a post-season roster spot. In 14 Big League innings, lefties hit .158 off of him and righties hit .188.

Price will almost certainly earn a spot in the Rays’ talented rotation next year. Combined with Scott Kazmir, the Rays would have two southpaws in the rotation. The question is: what will happen to one of the right-handers who will likely be bounced from the rotation?

Right-hander James Shields and Matt Garza seem to be locks to keep their starting jobs. The likely candidates to move on from the rotation are Andy Sonnanstine, 26, who was 13-9, 4.38, or Edwin Jackson, 25, who was 14-11, 4.42. Should the Rays attempt to trade one of these young starters, there will be many interested takers. The Rays do have a need in right field and they didn’t have a legitimate closer since Troy Percival, 39, got injured.

There are going to quite a few closers available during the winter meetings. Brian Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez, and all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman might be possibilities. We think, however, that Joe Maddon is happy with the closer by committee option he employed in 2008. He’s got quite a few options with Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, and J. P. Howell. Our guess is Maddon will let one of them earn the job.

Ken Griffey Jr. is an interesting thought to join the Rays. Junior’s family lives in Tampa and he just may be the veteran leader the team needs to give them a World Series ring next year.

One thing is for sure. The Rays have the luxury of six talented starting pitchers, all of whom are less than 28-years-old. Price, the youngest of the bunch, is just 23.

“I’m coming into next year hoping to start, and if I get that nod, that’ll be awesome.”

It’s a safe bet that Price will not only get that nod, but he’ll also be a top 30 starting pitcher pick and a favorite to be the Rookie of the Year.

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