ST. PETERSBURG — After feeling tightness in the back of his arm for the fourth, or maybe fifth, time during the third inning Wednesday against the Red Sox, David Price looked into the Rays dugout and summoned for help.
Never in the thousands of fastballs he threw had he felt something like this, and he knew as he walked off the mound mid inning with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield something was wrong with his valuable left arm.
A subsequent MRI exam late Wednesday led to a diagnosis of a strain of the triceps muscle.
Further evaluations and announcements are expected today, though Price seems destined for at least a short stint on the disabled list with Jake Odorizzi, perhaps, the most likely replacement.
"It felt like more than just tightness," Price said.
"It didn't feel the best. It wasn't like excruciating pain, but I've never felt anything like that before."
Manager Joe Maddon was reluctant to speculate on Price's status but said he doesn't believe the injury is serious.
"From what I was told right now, there was nothing really hot on the MRI," Maddon said. "We'll look at it further (today) and make our determination at that point. But from what I'm hearing right now, it doesn't sound too awful. Actually, it was almost like good news."
Price said much the same about the MRI exam: "I guess it was as good as it could have been."
The triceps is a muscle on the back side of the upper arm, obviously integral to pitching. Toronto's Josh Johnson has been sidelined since late April with triceps soreness and isn't expected back until June.
Price, who has struggled through the encore to his AL Cy Young-winning season (now 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA), seemed to be off to a good start Wednesday, hitting 95 mph in the first inning and allowing one two-out hit in each frame.
"I thought he was throwing the ball really well," Maddon said. "I didn't see anything unusual about his throwing motion to indicate there was something wrong with the arm."
But starting during the leadoff walk to Stephen Drew in the third, Price said he felt the tightness in the back of his arm. When it happened for the fourth or fifth time, on a 95 mph fastball that David Ortiz slapped down third for an RBI single on his 57th pitch of the night, he knew he had to do something and motioned toward the dugout. Pitching coach Jim Hickey, then Maddon and Porterfield headed out.
Both Price and Maddon said it was a new issue and there had been no previous hints or suggestions of arm trouble.
"I had never experienced anything like that," Price said. "It didn't just happen one or two times. It's probably four or five times that I felt it. It's something I've got to take care of. I can't just go out there (and keep pitching) because I'm not just putting my neck on the line. I'm a part of this team, and I want to be there in August or September or when we're playing in the playoffs.
"I never have done that (summon help). I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it was something that was serious."
There wasn't much discussion on the mound beyond Price telling Porterfield what he felt, and there was no point in having him even try another pitch.
"Looking at him, I knew that he did not want to throw," Maddon said. "I knew there was something bothering him. At that point, it was an easy decision."
Price said the protocol for treatment will be based on how he feels today, and he hopes to come in and play catch and isn't ruling out making his next start, which would be Monday in Toronto. Maddon, though, acknowledged that is unlikely.
Odorizzi, acquired from Kansas City in the James Shields trade, would seem to be the most likely replacement. He was lifted after 86 pitches and 5⅓ innings Wednesday, though after giving up six runs on six hits (including three homers).
Another option could be Chris Archer, who is supposed to start tonight for Durham but is on a five-inning, 75-pitch limit after being knocked out of his last start after three innings when hit by a comebacker and scratched from the one before that due to a calf bruise from being hit previously.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.