ST. PETERSBURG — Rays LHP David Price was encouraged by how he felt during Thursday's 54-pitch simulated game, the first time he had faced hitters since straining his left triceps May 15.
And the Rays were excited about how well Price threw. Manager Joe Maddon said Price has exceeded expectations in his recovery and may need fewer than the planned three minor-league starts before returning this month.
"He looked like he could pitch in an actual game, he was that good," Maddon said. "Velocity on fastball was way up there, slider, changeup; everything was outstanding."
Price, who had thrown two previous bullpen sessions, said his body and arm felt strong while simulating the up-and-down of a three-inning start against teammates Ryan Roberts, Sean Rodriguez and Sam Fuld.
"It was a good day overall," he said.
There weren't many good swings against the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner. "Electric," Roberts said. "He was looking like he was last year."
LINING UP: The Rays' lineup had an unexpected look against the Royals. Kelly Johnson made his major-league debut at third, and usual third baseman Evan Longoria was the DH.
Johnson last played third in 2005 at Triple-A Richmond — that was for only four games — and he has only 15 games there total. He did early work Thursday with infield coach Tom Foley and held his own in the 10-1 loss.
Maddon said the changes came from a combination of wanting to give Longoria the day at DH and to get Fuld in leftfield. And because the Rays had a fly ball pitcher (Jeremy Hellickson) on the mound, they felt comfortable putting Johnson at third, preferring to have an extra left-handed bat.
cobb back: RHP Alex Cobb was reinstated from the bereavement list. He had flown to the Boston area for a service for his maternal grandmother, Nancy Miller, 85. RHP Jake Odorizzi was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room, but not before getting the chance to face his former team, allowing two runs over 3 1/3 innings. "It's pretty cool, definitely exciting," Ordorizzi said. "It was a neat thing. Not too many guys get to do that."
PITCHING IN: LHP Matt Moore said he is eager to pitch tonight after two "pretty bad" outings in which he allowed a combined 15 runs. After examining how hard he was hit Monday against Baltimore, Moore is "looking to make a lot better pitches when I'm ahead in the count."
STARRY NIGHT: Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield was named to the AL staff for the All-Star Game in New York. Porterfield was excited after being picked by his peers in his first year of eligibility. To be eligible, he needed to be on a big-league staff for 10 years. This is his 11th, all with the Rays. "There's nobody in this game better than him," Maddon said.
DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays signed 13 more draft picks: 2B Johnny Field (fifth round), RHP Austin Pruitt (ninth), RHP Aaron Griffin (10th), SS Patrick Blair (12th), LHP Ben Griset (13th), RHP Jaime Schultz (14th), OF Julian Ridings (18th), RHP Andrew Hanse (22nd), LHP Rick Teasley (23rd), OF Jeremy Hadley (24th), RHP Hunter Wood (29th), RHP Cory Jordan (35th) and RHP D.J. Slaton (37th round).
MISCELLANY: Maddon said he would talk to RHP Chris Archer about his fist-pumping show of emotion after a strikeout Wednesday against the Red Sox but would give him a "mulligan." … Due to popular demand, the Rays will have a second Joe Maddon gnome giveaway, to the first 10,000 fans Aug. 3 against the Giants … The Rays' May minor-league players of the month: INF Vince Belnome hit .345 (.966 on-base-plus slugging percentage) at Triple A, and LHP Enny Romero was 4-1 with a 1.34 ERA at Double A.