Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Price still gets excited over opening day

ST. PETERSBURG — LHP David Price has pitched 125 times in the regular season (including the 2011 season opener), six times in the playoffs, twice in the World Series and twice in the All-Star Game.

And none of that experience takes away from the excitement he'll feel today throwing the first pitch of what the Rays expect to be a very rewarding season.

"It is very special," Price said Monday. "It's the first day for us and we're obviously at home, so we get to take the field first and we get to throw the first pitch. And we get to set our own tone. So it's good. We enjoy it and we're ready for it."

And, yes, Price, even at 27 with a Cy Young Award, will have butterflies.

"Yeah, absolutely, I've got them now just doing this stuff," Price said. "It's a good day. If you can't get butterflies when you come out to a major-league game on opening day, there's probably something wrong with you."

With all the pomp and circumstance involved, Price said there will also be a certain amount of relief to get the game behind him.

LINING UP: With projected No. 5 hitter DH Luke Scott on the DL, manager Joe Maddon kept his planned lineup relatively intact. Sam Fuld went into the lineup in the No.  2 spot and playing rightfield, Ben Zobrist dropped to third and moved from right to second base, LF Matt Joyce moved down to fifth and No.  9 hitter Kelly Johnson was switched from second to DH.

Maddon said he put Fuld in right because he is used to all three outfield spots, and he wants Joyce to get comfortable in left because he will play more there.

Maddon is still working on his lineup vs. left-handers — the O's are starting Wei-Yin Chen on Wednesday — but expect to see new addition Shelley Duncan at DH.

THE KJ SHOW: Johnson has made only seven appearances as a DH in his career (.304, 7-for-23, with a homer) but said he doesn't mind the duty, on an occasional basis.

"I don't think I would be the first one to volunteer to be doing it on a regular basis, but like any of us I just want to be in the lineup," he said. "I know some guys that don't even want to do it, they don't like it. I haven't done it enough to really get to that point. I'm all right with it."

HAMMEL TIME: Orioles starter RHP Jason Hammel said he "owes a lot" to the Rays for giving him his first opportunity, drafting him in the 10th round in 2002 and bringing him to the majors. After trades to Colorado and Baltimore, he sees the irony of today's matchup. "It's kind of funny how baseball comes full circle," Hammel said. "I debuted with the Rays against the Orioles, and now I have my first opening day start as an Oriole against the Rays. It's definitely exciting."

MISCELLANY: The Rays have now sold out eight consecutive home openers. … RHP Juan Sandoval, the reliever who is blind in his right eye, was assigned to Double-A Montgomery. … 3B Evan Longoria will be joined by the Rays, Ducky's Sports Lounge and Bright House Sports Network in donating $100 for every home run to St. Petersburg's Pet Pal Animal Shelter. … There is a free shuttle to the game today from downtown St. Petersburg, with pickup on Second Street, between Central Avenue and First Avenue S to the stadium and back, from 90 minutes before game until 60 minutes after. See loopertrolley.com. … The Rays signed a three-year deal with LumaStream Inc. to upgrade lighting in the stadium.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

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