ST. PETERSBURG — LHP David Price had another career achievement Friday night, recording his 1,000th strikeout.
His milestone came in the top of the second, when he struck out DH Chris Carter on three pitches for his third of the night. A sign flashed on the scoreboard to honor Price, and the announced crowd of 13,961 responded with a standing ovation.
"It's cool," Price said. "It is, absolutely. You can't deny that."
Price joins former teammate James Shields as the only pitchers in club history with at least 1,000 strikeouts. Price accomplished that feat in 12 fewer appearances and 16 fewer starts than Shields.
Price smiled but didn't have much time to thank the crowd — he had a runner in scoring position to worry about. Price got two outs on the next two batters to escape the jam.
CLOSING TIME: A day after RHP Grant Balfour threw a perfect, three-strikeout ninth inning, Maddon didn't hold back praise for his former closer.
"(Thursday) was the best he's thrown all year," Maddon said. "Period."
Though Balfour has pitched well since losing the closer's title after giving up five runs for the second time earlier this month, Maddon said he doesn't plan to abandon his closer-by-committee approach and that any save opportunities Balfour gets will come on their own and will be unplanned.
"If he just follows his lead from (Thursday), he'll be okay very quickly," Maddon said.
BACK TO BASICS: The Rays wrapped up this week's spring training in June with more fielding and hitting drills. They ranged from hitting smaller balls shot from a shorter distance to 3B Evan Longoria taking grounders from his knees.
"It's just a matter of sharpening the mental sword, and I liked it," Maddon said.
"Let's see if there's any carryover, a little bump from it."
COSTLY STEAL: The Rays' rally in the eighth ended quickly after C Jose Molina hit a leadoff single. Pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez saw a pitch in the dirt and took off for second but was thrown out.
Maddon said he doesn't have a problem with his players stealing in that situation as long as they know they'll make it.
"You have to be safe," he said. "It's not a maybe play. It's a definite play."
MEDICAL MATTERS: The Rays expect OF David DeJesus to return around the All-Star break after he landed on the DL on Thursday with a fractured left hand. RHP Jeremy Hellickson's rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Durham is scheduled to last six innings or 90 pitches. RHP Taylor Guerrieri, a 2011 first-round pick, said via Twitter he threw to hitters Friday for the first time since having Tommy John elbow surgery in July.
MISCELLANY: Both teams will celebrate tonight's Turn Back the Clock Night with retro-style uniforms. … George Springer's third-inning home run for Houston was the 23rd in Tropicana Field history to hit the D-ring catwalk and first since Texas' Mitch Moreland in May 2011. … SS Yunel Escobar has the Rays' only two hits with runners in scoring position over the past three games. … Molina had his second multi-hit game of the season and stole his first base since June 2013. … With the Rays formally announcing the signing of their third-round pick, LHP Brock Burke, they've inked all 11 of their picks from the first 10 rounds and 32 of their 41 draftees overall.
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com.
Rays' strikeout leaders
Player No. Sea.Inn.
James Shields 1,250 7 1,4542/3
David Price 1,0097 1,0882/3
Scott Kazmir 874 6 834
Matt Garza 467 3 5921/3
Jeremy Hellickson 409 4 5761/3
Jeff Niemann 409 5 5441/3