BRADENTON, Fla. -- David Price thinks he's primed for a strong start to the season.
The Tampa Bay Rays ace had his final prep work for opening day, pitching four innings Sunday in a 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.Price, who will get the ball Friday night in Baltimore, gave up one run and five hits. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award runner-up walked one and struck out three."This is probably the best I've felt coming out of spring training," Price said. "It's the best my stuff has been heading into the year. Last year I felt pretty good, but this year I feel even better."Paul Maholm, the No. 2 pitcher in the Pirates' rotation, worked five innings and yielded three runs on five hits. The left-hander walked one and struck out five."I didn't feel real comfortable in the first two innings," Maholm said. "After I made an adjustment, I was able to feel good and challenge guys."Maholm gave up solo home runs to Kelly Shoppach and Ben Zobrist. Elliot Johnson doubled and scored on Reid Brignac's single.Rays catcher John Jaso tied it 4-all in the ninth with a one-out solo homer off Chris Leroux. A right-hander, Leroux is competing with rookie Mike Crotta for the final open spot in the Pirates' bullpen.Josh Rodriguez scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the ninth to snap Pittsburgh's five-game losing streak.Rodriguez drew a one-out walk from reliever Jeremy Hall and advanced to second on Jose Tabata's groundout. Pedro Ciriaco hit a sharp roller to third base and Manuel Mayora's throw to first was wild, allowing Rodriguez to score."We had a good camp," new Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We didn't win as many games as we wanted to, but we had to cover a lot coming in. The attitude and effort was outstanding. I have a much better understanding and view of the organization, the depth we have, than I did coming in."Hurdle was hired in November to turn around a franchise that has not had a winning season since 1992."The work we put in this spring is going to pay us dividends," Hurdle said. "There's energy. We're upbeat. There's a season in front of us and we're looking forward to embracing it."The Pirates' first two runs were aided by a stiff wind blowing out to center field. In the third inning, Neil Walker tripled off the center-field wall and scored on Andrew McCutchen's groundout. In the fifth, Tabata hit a solo homer, his first this spring.Ryan Doumit's two-out, two-run single in the sixth gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead.The Pirates will play Minnesota on Monday in Fort Myers, then fly to Philadelphia for two exhibition games against the Phillies.The Rays have three spring games remaining and will break camp after playing Toronto on Wednesday at Tropicana Field."It's been a long spring training, but we got some work in and made some strides," center fielder B.J. Upton said. "As a whole, we're feeling pretty good. This is a good group of guys. When we have fun, we win. We've done a lot of that during spring training and there's no reason we can't take it into the season."
The Pirates will keep Rodriguez, who was claimed in the Rule 5 draft from Cleveland. Ciriaco was cut from big league camp. ... The Rays traded INF Joe Inglett to Houston for a player to be named or cash. Inglett hit .208 with one RBI in 19 spring games. ... Pirates GM Neal Huntington said C Chris Snyder (sore lower back) is "very probable" to begin the season on the disabled list. Snyder has played in one of the past 16 spring games. ... Pirates RHP James McDonald (sore side) will throw a simulated game Thursday in Florida, then fly to Chicago to join the team for opening day. McDonald is scheduled to make his first start April 5 in St. Louis. If McDonald has a setback, RHP Jeff Karstens will make a spot start.