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Opening day start a pleasant surprise for Rays' Price

Opening day starter David Price didn't expect to be wearing a Rays uniform this season.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Opening day starter David Price didn't expect to be wearing a Rays uniform this season.

ST. PETERSBURG — Taking the mound on opening day always will be special for LHP David Price. But it's even more so this year because he didn't expect to be wearing a Rays uniform again.

"I didn't think I was going to be here right now, that's for sure," said Price, who faces the Blue Jays at 4:10 today. "I've seen guys go through similar situations … and most of them were gone right now. So I definitely appreciate being here, I enjoy it, it's my second home, really."

Whether it was not being traded, getting back to his normal offseason routine (after a Cy Young Award disrupted 2012-13) or some combination of events, Price looked sharp and felt good throughout the spring, with his focus and determination obvious.

"I know I feel very good right now," Price said Friday. "I never had that week or two weeks in spring training where I thought my arm was just going to fall off. That happens to just about everybody every single year, and I didn't go through that, so hopefully that's a good sign."

This is Price's third season opener, having lost to the Orioles in 2011 and taken a no-decision last year.

ROSTER-IZATION: The Rays got down to the 25-man roster limit by placing RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo on the 15-day disabled list, along with INF Tim Beckham and RHP Jeremy Hellickson.

Oviedo pitched Saturday in Montgomery, Ala., so there is no backdating to his placement — listed officially as "recovering from right elbow surgery" — and he won't be available until April 14 at the soonest.

Oviedo missed the first month of spring training due to visa issues, and the Rays are proceeding cautiously since he hasn't pitched in a major-league game since September 2011 and had Tommy John surgery in September 2012.

Oviedo going on the DL makes official what has been obvious: that RHPs Brandon Gomes (who has a minor-league option remaining) and Josh Lueke (who doesn't) got the two final bullpen spots.

LINING UP: Manager Joe Maddon took until Sunday afternoon before deciding Jose Molina would catch today. He said even though Ryan Hanigan will get the majority of the assignments, it will be something of a daily decision, based more on opposing starters than matching up with Rays pitchers.

MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham's roster includes INF Wilson Betemit, who apparently didn't find a big-league job elsewhere. Also, a more experienced "third" catcher has not yet been added, as the Bulls will open with Eddy Rodriguez (two big-league starts) and Ali Solis (none). … Previously suspended OF Josh Sale was reinstated and is with Class A Charlotte. For full minor-league rosters, see tampabay.com/blogs/rays.

MISCELLANY: Today is the Rays' ninth straight home opener to be sold out, although capacity is reduced to 31,042. … Pregame ceremonies include the raising of a 2013 AL wild-card banner. … Biggest change at the Trop potentially affecting play is the new batter's eye wall, with open space for fans on either side. … Also, all wall pads were painted dark blue. … New instant replay and home-plate collision rules are in effect. … The Rays haven't lost a home series to the Blue Jays since April 2007, going 19-0-1 since.

Opening day start a pleasant surprise for Rays' Price 03/30/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 9:35pm]
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