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Rapid adjustments could lead to All-Star reward for Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price

David Price heads into tonight’s start against the Astros leading the AL with six wins and a 1.81 ERA.

Associated Press

David Price heads into tonight’s start against the Astros leading the AL with six wins and a 1.81 ERA.

HOUSTON — LHP David Price said he'd be lying if he said he didn't think about making his first All-Star team.

He said it doesn't necessarily drive him, then smiled and acknowledged, "It'd be a nice reward."

The way Price, 24, has pitched, he might be well on his way. He enters tonight's start leading the American League in wins (six) and ERA (1.81), making him the youngest to be atop the league in those categories at this date since 23-year-old Bret Saberhagen in 1984.

Price said he expected this of himself last season as a rookie. But teammates see a little different Price this year.

"I think he's learned and applied a lot of different things from last year and being able to do that, could make him one of the absolute best pitchers in the league, especially from the left side," RHP Andy Sonnanstine said. "Everyone knows he has outstanding stuff, but the way he's using it right now, his mentality, is almost impeccable."

Price said he started feeling good toward the end of last season and has carried it over, focusing on being aggressive in the zone. He's 9-1 in his past 12 starts since Sept. 14, and manager Joe Maddon believes this is only the tip of the iceberg.

"The big part of it is being able to throw his fastball for a strike," Maddon said. "He's going to keep getting better at it, he really is. He's gotten a lot better than he was last year. He's still not where he needs to be yet. But when he does, heads-up."

SONNY DAY: Sonnanstine loves challenges, and he has embraced the task of acclimating himself to the bullpen after spending his entire pro career as a starter. He has asked several fellow relievers for advice and can often be seen poring over scouting reports in the clubhouse. It has been an adjustment, he said, but he's feeling more comfortable by the day.

"I feel much better about my throwing routine and my getting-ready routine," he said. "Compared to Day 1, it's much better, just the feel for everything."

Sonnanstine, 27, said another learning experience came Wednesday against the Yankees, when he pitched for the third straight day for the first time and gave up four runs, matching his season total. He had given up one run in his previous 10 innings.

"One thing I noticed is I was having some trouble finishing, some lazy sliders, some lazy fastballs, that I was having trouble with control," Sonnanstine said.

Though Sonnanstine was disappointed initially after not getting the fifth starter's spot out of camp, his role has been easier to accept with the team's success. "There's so much talent in this locker room right now, I'm blessed to be a part of it," he said.

STEPPING UP: Maddon continued to praise the complete game of rookie C John Jaso, saying, "Among all of our hitters, every night he plays, he may have the best at-bats on a nightly basis." Jaso has reached base eight times in his past 10 plate appearances (5-for-7 with three walks) and is hitting .339.

Can he play himself into a situation where he stays even when C Kelly Shoppach (knee sprain) returns?

"Anything is possible," Maddon said. "He's taking advantage of his opportunities right now. That decision is still down the road, but of course, I want him to play here, now with the intent he wants to stay."

MISCELLANY: The Rays' game on June 5 vs. the Rangers has been picked up by Fox. The game has been moved up to a 4:10 p.m. start and will air on Ch. 13 locally. … LF Carl Crawford's four-hit game was his third of the season and first at Minute Maid Park; he was 1-for-15 coming in. … Ben Zobrist tied a career high with three walks, the third time he has accomplished that (last on Aug. 25, 2009, vs. Toronto).

Rapid adjustments could lead to All-Star reward for Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price 05/22/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 23, 2010 1:14pm]

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