What has been a rough season for David Price has just gotten rougher. The Rays ace, and reigning AL Cy Young winner, departed Wednesday night's start against the Red Sox after just 57 pitches in 2 1/3 innings due to triceps tightness. After the game, the Rays revealed that he had suffered a strain (see update below).
After two scoreless innings, Price worked his way into a jam in the third via a Stephen Drew walk and singles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedrioa, the latter of which scored the game's first run. After yielding another run via a single by David Ortiz, the 27-year-old lefty grimaced and flexed his left hand. He was soon joined on the mound by Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, manager Joe Maddon, and finally the training staff, and departed without throwing another practice pitch. The Red Sox broke the game open by scoring six more runs against reliever Jamey Wright, including the two runners he inherited from Price.
Price has rarely shown his Cy Young-winning form this year. I noted prior to his last turn — a rare matchup against reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey in which he got the upper hand — that not only had the average velocity of his sinker fallen off from 96.2 mph in 2012 to 93.9 mph in 2013, but his curve was getting significantly less break. His home run rate and batting average on balls in play have both skyrocketed, the former from 0.7 to 1.4 per nine, the latter from .286 to .338, and he came into the game bearing a 4.78 ERA. He was battered for eight runs in a 13-0 Rays loss April 7, and nine more (four earned, via a retroactive decision by the official scorer) in a 9-3 loss to the Rockies on May 4.
On a less conventional note, Price was fined for criticizing umpire Tom Hallion via social media after an on-field dispute resulting in the ejection of a teammate April 28. On Tuesday, it was revealed he has dealt with severe allergies that have caused rashes and blurred his vision, making it difficult for him to see the signs from the catcher. That issue is believed to be connected to a chemical the Rays use to clean their uniforms and his clothing is now being washed separately.
It's too early to tell whether Price will need a trip to the disabled list, but worth noting 23-year-old righty Jake Odorizzi started tonight for the team's Triple-A Durham affiliate and would be lined up to take Price's turn if he misses a start. Acquired from the Royals in the Wil Myers-James Shields trade, Odorizzi cracked Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in each of the past three years, with a high ranking of 68th in 2012. A 2008 supplementary first-round pick by the Brewers, he was sent to Kansas City in the Zack Greinke trade in December 2010 and made two starts for the Royals late last year after a solid showing in Double-A and Triple-A (3.03 ERA, 8.4 strikeouts per nine in 145 1/3 innings).
Odorizzi would probably already be pitching in the majors if he were in another organization, but the Rays are known for their pitching depth. It would be a shame if a major injury to their ace is what required them to test it, as they're already meandering along at 20-18, in fourth place in the AL East. Update: After the game, Maddon said that an MRI on Price's triceps "showed nothing serious but we'll make a better call tomorrow." He added that Price was unlikely to make his next start on Monday, and that the team will decide on Thursday who will take his turn. Chris Archer, a prospect who's higher on the depth chart than Odorizzi, is scheduled to start that day but could be bumped to put him in line.