PORT CHARLOTTE — The Tampa Bay Rays want David Price to have a major league change-up before he gets to the major leagues, and Price did his best Tuesday to show them how far his change-up has come along during his first appearance of the spring.
Price pitched two innings against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays at Charlotte Sports Park, walking the leadoff hitter in each inning but striking out three.
“He threw the ball well,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “His velocity was good. I know he struggled a little bit throwing his fastball for a strike, but he threw some really good change-ups. He had some really nice change-ups, some real nice sliders. Physically, his velocity was really good.”
Price, who entered in the seventh inning, started his day by throwing six straight balls but recovered to strike out Brad Emaus for the first out of the inning. He used his change-up to get Brian Dopirak to bounce into a 1-6-3 double play in the eighth, then got Sean Shift to look at a change-up for a called third strike to end the inning.
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“It felt good to finally be out there,” Price said. “It went all right. I can’t complain. I kept zeroes on the scoreboard, so that’s what you’re going after.”
Price is one of four pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the rotation but appears headed back to Triple-A Durham, where he can work on his fastball command, his change-up and gain more experience. Last year was the first year of pro ball for the top pick in the 2007 draft, and the Rays don’t want to put too many innings on his left arm this season.
Price said he’s not worried about any of that.
“All I can do is throw well,” he said. “There’s a bunch of different stuff going on with that, so (I will) just go out there and have fun.”
Perez out with wrist injury
Center fielder Fernando Perez injured his left wrist diving for a bloop fly ball by Travis Snider in the first inning. He left the game and was examined by doctors in Port Charlotte.
Rays vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman did not want to reveal too much of those results because they were forwarded to the Rays’ team doctors for a second opinion.
Friedman did say that Perez will be out at least a week.
Perez had a chance to make the Opening Day roster if B.J. Upton is not ready to return from shoulder surgery.
Maddon used Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell in the three, four and five spots in the order for the first time this spring, primarily because it was the first time Pena and Burrell were available on the same day.
Pena missed the first week of games while he rehabbed his lower abdominal muscles that required surgery in January, and Burrell missed the previous four games while he attended his sister’s wedding in San Francisco.
Maddon will use those three in that order when the regular season begins.
“I kind of like the way it sets up,” Maddon said. “They are all high on-base percentage guys. They are all like that. They accept their walks. It’s kind of a nice little trio.”
Pena was 0-for-3 but reached on an error during his fifth-inning at-bat, his last of the game.
Longoria had a hit and two walks. Burrell also walked twice before hitting a grand slam in his final at-bat.
Jason Isringhausen, who is recovering from elbow surgery last summer, threw a BP session Tuesday and will throw another Friday.
“We’ll sit down and put all our great minds together and come up with a plan,” he said.
Maddon is anxious to get Isringhausen in a game, but that won’t happen until sometime next week.
Still, Maddon was pleased with Isringhausen’s bullpen session Tuesday.
“He threw really well,” Maddon said. “Physically, he was good. His command wasn’t what he wanted it to be regarding where he wanted to throw, but believe me, velocity, movement, breaking ball, delivery all was good. Everything was good. He just needs to see more hitters to find the plate like he wants to again. I was very pleased with what I saw today. It was very exciting.”
Isringhausen said he was a little pumped to show Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey what he could do, and that’s why his command was off.
“New manager out there, you want to impress,” Isringhausen said. “Last two years in St. Louis it didn’t matter what I did. I was on the team. This is fun.”
The Rays sent eight players to the minor league side of camp before Tuesday’s game. The most notable cut was pitcher James Houser, the left-hander from Sarasota who was taken in the second round of the 2003 draft. Houser was optioned to Triple-A Durham.
The others were catchers Craig Albernez and Nevin Ashley, and pitchers Jason Cromer, Neal Frontz, Calvin Medlock and Chad Orvella.
Orvella will continue his rehab from the shoulder surgery that cost him the 2008 season.
Andy Sonnanstine also made his spring debut, pitching a perfect fifth inning . . . Jon Weber replaced Perez in center field and was 2-for-5, including a double to leadoff the bottom of the first inning. Weber is batting .364 . . . Craig Albernez, sent to the minor league camp before the game, managed to get two at-bats in the Rays game against the Jays. He went 0-for-2 in his only two at-bats of the spring . . . Shortstop Reid Brignac had two hits, scored twice and drove in two runs . . . Second baseman Ray Olmedo had a pair of hits and scored twice. He also made an outstanding defenswive play in the second inning when he had to reach back to his left to field a ground ball that was originally headed up the middle but was deflected by the glove of Matt Garza. With a runner on first, Olmedo was moving to cover second. He managed to grab the ball and get the force with a back-hand toss to Brignac . . . Ray Sadler hit another homer run past the boardwalk, this time to left-center field.