Rays’ Price waits for old form to return

ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay starting pitcher David Price stood at his locker on Monday, calmly taking questions as he always does a day before his start.

The routine remained unchanged and his answers were as nonchalant as ever, showcasing his trademark grin that has helped him become one of the favorites among Rays fans.

Helping that popularity was his status as one of the best left-handers in baseball, a reality reinforced by his Cy Young Award last season, the first in franchise history.

Through his first four starts this season, that success has been missing. Price is winless with an 0-1 record; the 16 earned runs given up in April are more than he had in any month last year, and he isn’t happy about it.

“This is something I don’t want to just be good at,” Price began, “I play this game to be great.”

Price remained adamant that he will rediscover last year’s form. He insisted his mechanics are good and the ball was coming out of his hand well — opposing hitters were just making good contact.

“I’ve struggled at every level in baseball, and it’s part of it,” Price said. “The ones that can get through those struggles and not linger on for months at a time, those are the ones that can still have extremely good years.”

Price plays his role in it too and said he can’t afford to leave any pitches hanging in the zone, especially in situations with runners on base.

“That’s something I was able to do in 2012 and not well in 2011,” said Price, who was 12-13 with a 3.49 ERA two years ago. “I’m just looking to get out there. And six innings isn’t enough anymore, we need to give those bullpen guys as much rest as possible.”

One factor that could help Price is his fastball velocity. In previous years, it, traditionally, has increased as the season went on, and he expects this year to be no different.

“I think that’s just something in due time that will come,” Price said. “I hope it comes in 24 or 28 hours, so it’ll be there in the first and second inning tomorrow. It’s going to come, I have faith in that.”

Manager Joe Maddon also was not worried about Price’s 6.26 ERA, saying he has actually seen some improvements in Price’s pitch repertoire.

“The curve ball has been pretty good and the change-up has been also,” Maddon said before he brought up his usual mantra of fastball control. “The velocity and where he wants it to be has just not been what he’s accustomed to, but I see that coming along, also.”

Once he does find his rhythm, Price said it all goes down to staying in it as long as possible.

“Once I have that moment or that game and have that feeling going through my body, that’s what makes the difference,” Price said. “Sometimes you have to have good fortune to turn it into a good future.”

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