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'Driven' Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price keeps eye on road ahead

MINNEAPOLIS — There are plenty of reasons for LHP David Price to be pleased with his first half of the season.

After all, Price (11-3, 2.44) entered Thursday leading the American League in wins and ERA. He reached 10 wins faster than any other Ray in club history, and he has a good shot of making the All-Star team.

But what Price has taken pride in is his consistency, boasting 12 quality starts among 15 outings. It's something the 2007 top pick has worked for the past couple of seasons; when Price is on the mound, he wants his team to know exactly what to expect.

"Consistency is key; it's what you have to do to stay at this level," Price said. "That's probably the biggest thing for a pitcher to do."

Price said a key to his success has been trusting his stuff and pitching to his strengths as opposed to overanalyzing opponent's weaknesses.

"I haven't been doing a whole lot of thinking out there," he said. "I just go out there and throw my game."

Teammates praise Price's competitiveness and desire, which manager Joe Maddon said has been a part of his rise. Maddon just doesn't want Price's perfectionist ways to make him too hard on himself.

"The word is driven," Maddon said. "Where he comes from, how he got here, he's always had an abnormally large amount of expectations on him, and he's handled that well. So I think he's driven to be the best, believes he can, wants to be.

"He's been doing really well. But I see a lot of room where he needs to grow, and I bet he'd be the first one to agree with that."

MEDICAL MATTERS: CF B.J. Upton didn't start for the third straight game as his sore right quadricep was not quite ready. He did say it felt a lot better Thursday than he thought it would after testing it by running in the afternoon.

Upton, who was available to pinch hit, hopes to be ready to start today, but the team is being cautious. He believes he got hurt while running to make a catch in the ninth inning Tuesday.

"It's no biggie," Upton said. "I think it's better this way than to be two weeks or a month or so. We're making progress."

CENTER STAGE: With Upton out, Ben Zobrist has filled in admirably in centerfield. He made a nice running catch in right-center in the sixth inning Thursday. Zobrist, who established himself with the Rays two years ago as a versatile utility man, said he enjoys playing different positions to see the game from different sides. But he acknowledges it's a challenge.

Zobrist entered this season having played just 12 games in center.

"It keeps you on your toes a little bit because you're not used to it," he said. "The negative is that you don't have much experience, so it's something that hopefully you get better as you go."

WALK THIS WAY: OF Matt Joyce reached base five times in Wednesday's win — two walks, two hits and hit by a pitch — and drew another walk Thursday against the Twins. This came after reaching base just four times in his first four games as a Ray this season.

"That's what he was doing in Triple A," Maddon said. "He was getting on base a lot. He was hitting for good numbers plus accepting his walks, which he does."

NEW DIGS: The Rays gave Target Field some rave reviews, though many noticed how expansive the outfield was.

"It's much bigger than what I expected," said SS Jason Bartlett, an ex-Twin.

"Beautiful yard," Maddon said. "They did a great job."

One touch is a sign of twins — representing the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul — shaking hands over the Mississippi River.

"We need something like that down in our place, Tampa and St. Pete shaking hands over the bay," Maddon quipped.

'Driven' Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price keeps eye on road ahead 07/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 1:38am]
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