Commentary | You can love Rays ace David Price, but don't get too attached

adell@bradenton.comMarch 2, 2014 

BRADENTON

Now you see him, now you don't.

It's a fear every Tampa Bay Rays fan has to live with when it comes to the team's beloved ace, David Price.

So the 34 pitches the lefty threw against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday should go down in the cherished moments file.

You don't know how many are left. It's part of living in the low-rent district.

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox can keep everything they raise.

The Rays' home-grown talent is similar to your typical family. You know the kids are going to leave someday.

The 28-year-old Price would've been gone before this spring, but in the minds of the Rays top brass the price wasn't right when they floated his name on the market. Perhaps it was because he won just 10 games last year, the lowest in his past four seasons.

If the Rays are going to unload one of their best, they want to get a good return. If they do that, all those broken hearts will mend with new people to love.

The passion for Price is steaming now. He got a standing ovation after his stint Saturday, describing the moment as "awesome. ... I really appreciated that."

Price will be pitching with a $14 million deal in 2014. It's the highest salary ever afforded a Rays for a single season, but Price ranks as the 68th-highest paid player, according to USA Today.

He is happy and doesn't want to talk about past rumors and speculation about the future.

"I am here. Everybody else keeps talking about it, but I don't," Price said following his stint against the Pirates. "I love what I do and I love who I do it with, so I don't think about that stuff."

He may not think about it, but the Rays' cash-strapped front office has no choice. It won't be able to match the big money Price will demand when he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. A big year in '14 could increase his value, though he will be closer to free agency.

When the Rays sent James Shields to the Kansas City Roayls with Wade Davis, they got Wil Myers, who earned American League Rookie of the Year honors last season. When they shipped Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs, they got shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, considered one of top prospects in baseball.

To be a Rays fan, you have to be a little fickle and not fall into a deep romance, unless it happens to be with Evan Longoria.

The Rays started Price on Saturday because it sets him up to start Opening Day on his normal rest. Tampa Bay falling out of contention, an unlikely scenario, is probably the only way he won't spend the entire season with the club.

Price obviously has emotional ties to this organization, but the Rays' front office has become adept at emotional detachment because it has no choice.

With the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw sitting atop the pitching pay scale at $30 million per season and Price one of the best in the business, you don't need an MIT grad to do the math.

But "one more year" is the chant you hear out of Tropicana Field and in his subtleness Price is leading the chorus. He sang praise for new Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan and attributed his slow start last season after coming off a Cy Young year to health.

"I feel good. I feel healthy, and that's what you look for this time of year," he said. "He (Hanigan) is good. I enjoy throwing to him. You can get out there in that first inning and get on the same page, and then you are good from then on. It will happen."

With Price, the Rays should make a serious run at the World Series.

So Rays fans can continue their lovefest for the big guy, but heed a warning: Do not get emotionally attached.

It's best to treat Price as gold dust on your mantel. He will someday disappear.

It is the way of the Ray.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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