Price, 4 others optioned to Durham
LHP David Price was among five players optioned to Triple-A Durham on Wednesday.
Also sent down were OF Justin Ruggiano, INFs Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson, and C John Jaso.
Price said he expected the move and considers it "part of the game," though he did acknowledge: "Right now it kind of stinks a little bit.''
Executive VP Andrew Friedman said the Rays came into spring training with an "open mind" about Price, but made the move for the reasons that have been talked about - that he needs addtional development, specifically in terms of fastball command and pitch efficiency, and also because they want to limit his innings this season, and it's easier to do so at the Triple-A level.
The idea is that they want him to be available to pitch late in the season, and potentially the postseason, and, essentially, are willing to go without him in the early part of the season. They are also focused on his developement for future seasons.
"We ultimately decided this is the right move for David and in turn the organization,'' Friedman said. "We're able to monitor his workload a lot more effectively in the minor leagues than in the major leagues, and we want him fully able in August and September. ... We have expectations of playing in October and we feel like we'll be a better team with David as a part of that, and also continuing to work on the developmental things as well.''
There has been a question if the Rays are sacrificing wins in April and May by doing this, but Friedman said that's not the case because of the quality of their other potential starters, such as Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann. "We feel like if we were doing something in April at the expense of August and September, it has more of a chance to hurt us than doing it vice versa,'' Friedman said. "There's not a perfect answer. ... With the guys we have we feel confident that we'll still be in good position. Our goal is to play competitive games in September and we feel like David is certainly going to help us win games in 2009 and whoever our fifth starter is will help us win games in 2009 as well.''
Friedman said it was a "hypothetical" to discuss whether Price, if there were no concerns, would have been considered one of their top five starters.
Friedman said the move was based entirely on baseball issues, and nothing to do with Price's future arbitration or free agency eligibility: "Of course.''
The Ruggiano move seemed surprising since he was considered a top candidate to replace OF B.J. Upton for the week he is expected to be on the DL. This could mean they are more likely to keep INF Adam Kennedy, though the Rays say they made the move so Ruggiano can play more regularly at Triple-A and that he could still be the player who replaces Upton.
"If B.J. starts the year on the DL, we could still recall him,'' Friedman said. "We still have options which way we want to go. ... We didn't send him out today for any other reason than to go down and play everyday. He may replace B.J. if B.J. starts on the DL, he may not.''