David Price's brilliant Thursday outing served as a reminder as to exactly what the Rays are missing since they traded him to Detroit. But the Rays, over the three-plus weeks since the trade, have done a pretty good job of showing they'll be okay without him not only for the rest of this season, but into 2015 and beyond. "I feel as a group we're still among the best in baseball, and the run that we've been on since David has left has really solidified that," said Alex Cobb, who replaces Price at the top of the rotation. "The job the staff has done over that time has been tremendous, and I think the true fans can look at that and understand we've got four, five top-of-the-rotation arms that are really going to hold this team to the standard that it's been held to in previous years." Proof? In the three weeks without Price through Drew Smyly's Friday gem, the Rays' starters had gone 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA that was second best in the majors over that span. "It's cool because (Price) left his residue, and it's impacting us now, but we're each our own individual pitchers," RHP Chris Archer said, "and this is what we're capable of." Besides being talented, the staff is young — an average age of just under 26, second youngest in the American League after Cleveland — and relatively inexpensive, making around $5.6 million total. RHP Jeremy Hellickson is the senior member at 27½ — how odd does that sound? — and the highest paid at $3.625 million, so the staff should be together for a while. And it has LHP Matt Moore coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery in the middle of next season. Here's a look at how the Rays' rotation sets up going forward:
For starters …
Alex Cobb RHP
Numbers: 9-6, 3.01 ERA this season; missed six weeks with oblique strain; 34-20, 3.28 in 74 career starts
Dollars: Arbitration eligible for first time next season, in line for about $3.5 million (and maybe a long-term deal)
Rays control: Through 2017
Chris Archer RHP
Numbers: 8-6, 3.17 ERA this season; 18-16, 3.33 in 54 career games (52 starts)
Dollars: Makes $1 million next season as part of six-year, $25.5 million deal
Rays control: Signed through 2019, with team options through 2021
Numbers: 9-10, 3.82 ERA this season; 9-12, 3.89 in 34 career games (31 starts)
Dollars: Not arbitration eligible until 2017, so will make just above major-league minimum of $500,000 for next two seasons
Rays control: Through 2019
Drew Smyly LHP
Numbers: 8-10, 3.42 ERA this season; 18-13, 3.34 in 111 career games (40 starts)
Dollars: Next season will be first of four years of arbitration eligibility; projects to make around $2.5 million
Rays control: Through 2018
Jeremy Hellickson RHP
Numbers: 1-2, 2.61 ERA this year (missed three-plus months for elbow surgery); 40-33, 3.64 in 108 career games (101 starts)
Dollars: Arbitration eligible for second time; making $3.65 million this season; potential trade candidate; missed time will limit raise
Rays control: Through 2016
Matt Moore LHP
Numbers: 0-2, 2.70 ERA this season before Tommy John elbow surgery; 29-17, 3.53 in 63 career games (61 starts)
Dollars: Makes $3 million as part of five-year, $14 million deal
Rays control: Signed through 2016, with team options through 2019
And the next wave …
After that top six, the Rays feel pretty good about the depth they have at Triple-A Durham this season.
First in line:
RHP Alex Colome (7-5, 3.47 ERA)
Most major-league ready; could step in with Rays if needed.
RHP Nate Karns (9-7, 4.56)
LHP Enny Romero (5-11, 4.82)
Both have had up-and-down seasons but have alluring potential due to overpowering stuff.
RHP Matt Andriese (11-7, 3.56)
RHP Merrill Kelly (7-4, 2.97)
LHP Mike Montgomery (9-5, 4.29)
Andriese and Kelly showed, and Montgomery regained, chance for big-league success.
And after that …
Among the young starters to keep track of in the organization:
RHP Dylan Floro (9-13, 3.59 at Double-A Montgomery)
LHP Grayson Garvin (1-8, 3.77 at Montgomery, returning from elbow surgery)
LHP Blake Snell (5-6, 4.02 at advanced Class A Charlotte)
RHP Taylor Guerrieri (recovering from elbow surgery)
And after that: RHP German Marquez, RHP Jamie Schultz, RHP Ryne Stanek
• Rays players rave about what a great teammate and friend David Price was, so it's interesting to hear their examples of how they miss him, such as hanging out in his hotel suite on the road. "You show up into a road city and drop the bags off and text David to see what room we're hanging out in, and you go hang out," RHP Alex Cobb said. "Once we kind of have to break up the ritual of doing something like that, it's a little bit difficult. David always had the suite, so that's why we were going to his room. We'll have to get somebody with a little bit of money to hook that up."
• As much as Price said he wanted to and hoped to stay, he knew the economics made that unlikely and understood why the Rays dealt him. "This is the way that the Rays have operated, and I get that," he said. "I've seen multiple teammates traded away that are good buddies and done a lot of good things for the Rays. That's how we got the Jake Odorizzis and the Wil Myers and Brandon Guyer and Chris Archer. That's how this team operates, and they've done a tremendous job of doing that and not only staying afloat but putting together an extremely competitive team."
• Price not only apologized for leaving Rays bullpen catcher Scott Cursi and video coordinator Chico Fernandez out of his thank-you newspaper ad, he sent both four cases of beer and a handwritten note, and some gear to strength/conditioning coach Kevin Barr for his son.
Though David Price's locker remains vacant (though with a minihoop now attached), LHP Matt Moore moved — after the more senior Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb passed — into the back corner double-wide previously used this season by since-released Heath Bell and Erik Bedard. … A limited number of tickets are available for the Sept. 19 Rays awards banquet put on by the Clutch Hitters; contact email@example.com. … Best wishes to former Rays bat boy and PR intern Jesse Litsch, a Dixie Hollins High product who last week retired after pitching parts of five seasons with the Blue Jays. … Surprising that neither Bedard nor Bell nor RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo is pitching for anyone.
Got a minute? Ben Zobrist
Best meal you can make?
Probably just grilling out burgers and dogs, that's about it. Baked beans.
My favorite show ever is The Office.
Food you hate?
I actually like this on food, but the thought of it grosses me out: mayonnaise. I can do a little bit on a sandwich.
Karaoke song, if you had to?
My go-to has been Ice Ice Baby.
I don't do that. I have a celebrity wife (Julianna, a singer), so she is my forever celebrity crush.