A short while ago, we took Mike Silva’s NY Baseball Digest to task for assuming that the Rays were only going to start David Price in the minors this season because the team is cheap. Jay Sorgen later responded to our flurry of jabs.
But rather than get into a war of baseball smarts versus New York bias, we will let Jayson Stark exaplain why Price will begin the season in the minors and why this means trouble for the Red Sox and Yankees.
On the depth of major league-ready starting pitching:
The Rays haven’t quite yet said that their favorite 23-year-old left-handed phenom is about to be handed a plane ticket to Durham, the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate. Not officially, anyway…But every indication is that that’s what’s about to happen, probably any day now. And if that isn’t a sign that the Rays obviously have way too much talent and way too much pitching, I don’t know what is.
On the player’s reactions to possibly not having Price [Ed note: several players expressed their disapproval publicly last year when Evan Longoria was demoted at the end of Spring Training]:
You wonder how many teams could sell their fans — and, maybe more important, their players — on the idea that sending out arguably the most dominating pitcher on their roster is actually a sensible baseball move, not some kind of sinister ploy to save money…But it tells you how far this franchise has come in the last year that you hear almost no second-guessing on this front in this team’s camp. From anybody.
“These guys are extremely smart in our front office,” first baseman Carlos Pena said. “So I respect that decision. I know there’s some very good reason behind it that will serve this team and, more importantly, serve David Price’s future.”
On why finances has little to do with demotion:
Oh, the Rays have their reasons, all right. Very, very intelligently thought-out reasons. And we should point out, at the top, that they have no reason — at least in the short term — to avoid starting Price’s arbitration clock. He’s already signed through 2012.
On what the Rays stand to benefit:
So if this is about baseball, it’s tough to argue with the concept of conserving Price’s innings load until they really need him. And when they say they want him to finish off his development into the top-of-the-rotation behemoth everyone expects him to be, well, how can you blame them?
Stark provides quotes from Jim Hickey on why dominating October as a relief pitcher is different than starting against the Yankees five times over six months:
“Obviously,” Hickey said, “he’s very talented. And he brought all the weapons he needed to the table. But a lot of that was also a little bit of unfamiliarity the hitters had with him. He’s got a little bit of funk in that delivery, which is helpful. And guys just not knowing what to expect…But let’s just say he’s a starting pitcher [this year], and he faces New York three, four or five times, or Baltimore three, four or five times, or anybody in our division. Obviously, you have to continue to get better. You have to adjust. And that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about. We’re not talking about any great deficiencies here.”
On limiting Price’s workload [Ed. note: Joe Maddon never skips pitchers in the rotation, always preferring to give his guys more rest. So the idea of having Price skip starts occasionally as the fifth starter would never happen]:
He worked 129 1/3 of those innings last season, counting the postseason. And the Rays want to limit their young pitchers to only about a 20 percent increase from year to year. So if we’re calculating correctly, that means they would like him to top out at about 155 innings or so this year…”So when would you rather have those innings?” Maddon asked. “In April or in October?”
On the Rays having other options:
So if Price doesn’t start the year in this rotation, it’s not as if they’ll be forced to throw some 47-year-old slopballer from the Mexican League out there…“I bet there are a number of teams,” Hickey said, “that wouldn’t mind having these three guys (Price, Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann) compete for their third spot in the rotation.”
We are not saying Jayson Stark is the absolute authority, but he is smarter than us.
In the end, what it comes down to is exactly what Carlos Pena referenced. The Tampa Bay Rays front office has been right much more often than they have been wrong. And with that, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Believe it or not, Price headed to minors [ESPN]