THE RAYS' No. 1 pick a year ago, David Price, has pitched so well in his brief minor league career that he's pushing his way into the Rays'—the contending Rays—plans for the last two months of the season. With a solid, if anonymous, rotation behind All-Star Scott Kazmir, the Rays aren't committed to using Price as a starter in the bigs this season. In fact their desire to limit his innings pitched, their lack of a dominant lefthander in the pen and the AL East's many dangerous lefty bats all recommend that Price be put in the bullpen upon his promotion, to be used in front of closer Troy Percival, perhaps even for more than one inning.
Sound familiar? A year ago Joba Chamberlain was a starter a year removed from a major college program, shooting through the Yankees' system thanks to his tremendous raw skills. The Yankees, needing relief help, moved Chamberlain to the pen at Triple A and promoted him to the majors shortly thereafter. He went on to have an 0.38 ERA in 24 innings, taking over the eighth-inning setup role and helping the Yankees win the wild card. The move was temporary—Chamberlain was back in the rotation less than a year later, and is now the team's best starting pitcher.
Price can be that kind of guy for the Rays. He has major-league-ready pitches that include a mid-90s fastball and a big, biting slider. He also has superior command, having struck out 68 and walked just 19 in 71 2/3 innings through Sunday. As Chamberlain did, Price would most likely work off his two best pitches as a reliever, largely putting his above-average changeup away until next season. He had a brief bout with elbow soreness this spring, but overall Price has a healthier history than Chamberlain did, which means the Rays wouldn't have to limit him the way the Yankees did with Chamberlain in 2007, when they instituted the so-called Joba Rules. For the Rays, adding Price to their bullpen mix would be like a great trade-deadline pickup.