Sending Price to minors a tough call

March, 26, 2009
David Price has been sent to the minors, and the Tampa Tribune's Martin Fennelly is less than thrilled:

    If the Rays hadn't just won the American League pennant like 19 minutes ago, today we'd be saying the whole lot of them, from manager Joe Maddon to baseball ops chief Andrew Friedman, are out of their minds.

    That's because the man who got the save in winning that pennant, towering lefty David Price, has been dispatched to Triple-A Durham. The electricity is already building for Jason Hammel's first start of the season.

    Price to the minors was in the bag before spring training. He could have struck out four guys in an inning, thrown the first no-hit game in Rays spring history and re-painted the clubhouse and he still would have wound up in the bushes.


    Yes, there were practical reasons to send Price down. For one thing, despite his amazing finish last season, he has only made 19 professional starts.

    Second, the Rays were out of options for two of Price's competitors for the fifth spot in the Rays' starting rotation, Hammel and Jeff Niemann.

    And now my practical reason to keep him:

    Price is better than the other guys.

    What's the point of Jason Hammel options if Hammel can't get it done?

    Shouldn't it be about that sometimes -- the other guy being better?

Well, yeah. But I'm not sure what Fennelly is suggesting here. Is he suggesting that David Price should open the season in the Rays' rotation and -- pitching against most of the best hitters in the world -- wind up throwing more than 180 innings? After throwing only 130 professional innings last year?

I thought the Rays might limit Price's innings by sticking him in the bullpen to open the season. I know they want him to work on refining his changeup, but it's not like there's never been a young pitcher who worked on his pitches while getting the occasional relief work in the majors.

I'm not saying they're wrong. Tampa Bay management has earned the benefit of the doubt, and then some. I have to agree with Fennelly, though, just a little bit. David Price is one of the most talented pitchers in the organization, and it seems a bit of shame to waste even a single inning on Triple-A hitters.



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