ST. PETERSBURG — The circumstances are still special, even though neither pitcher, at least not yet, has been.
For just the third time since Cy Young Awards were given to winners in each league starting in 1969, the two reigning winners will meet tonight, with Rays LHP David Price, who is 1-3, 6.25, taking on former Mets/now Blue Jays RHP R.A. Dickey, who is 2-5, 5.36.
"I know he can pitch better than what he is and so can I," Price said. "We're both going out there looking to get the ball rolling again, so it should be fun."
"It's special," Dickey said. "Anytime you have two reigning Cy Young Award winners facing each other, I know it's probably a pretty rare thing."
Last time it happened was 1999, when Braves LHP Tom Glavine beat Yankees (and former Jays) RHP Roger Clemens. Before that, 1989, when Mets (and former Twins) LHP Frank Viola beat Dodgers RHP Orel Hershiser.
Making it even more interesting, Price and Dickey are close, sharing a hometown (Nashville), an agent (Bo McKinnis) and some offseason activities. They've shared a mound twice before in the majors, last June when Dickey pitched a one-hit complete game and Price got knocked out after five, and in 2009 when Dickey pitched in relief for the Twins.
"He's obviously a friend," Dickey said. "When you face each other it's tough 'cause you want to throw a 1-0 shutout, let him give up the one run."
Price said despite the early season struggles he remains confident he will get his velocity, which has been down a few miles per hour, back and his season turned around.
"It's going to come," he said. "It is. I have the utmost confidence in that."
So does Rays manager Joe Maddon, who said he feels Price "is just a smidgen away from really looking like he had in the past. I firmly believe that."
Price insisted the problem is not physical, though he didn't exactly say everything was perfect, either.
"I feel fine, I really do," he said. "Every time you go out there and pitch you're going to have something that doesn't feel 100 percent, and that's every guy in the league, no matter how well or how bad they're throwing. Whenever you're out there there's something that will be bothering you that day and you're just going to have to roll with it. I feel good out there on the mound, absolutely."
So does that mean something is bothering him? "No," Price said. "My arm feels fine, my arm feels good."
GOING LONGO: 3B Evan Longoria’s eight homers since April 15 match the most in the majors over that span.
NO JAKIN': As much as LHP Jake McGee has struggled — an 11.25 ERA, with 19 hits (including four homers) and eight walks in 12 innings — Maddon said he will continue to use him in high-leverage situations.
And keep backing him.
"What Jake needs now is support from me and from us," he said. "Jake McGee is one of the best left-handed relief pitchers in the American League, maybe in all of baseball right now.
"His confidence is down, he's been shaken a bit. But that's not when you pile on; that's when you help and support."
Maddon said McGee has been "unlucky" based on balls finding holes. Also, that McGee should stick more to his fastball and not throw his other pitch — a sort of cutter/slider hybrid — in key situations.
MISCELLANY: Maddon was ejected for the third time this season, 30th as a Ray. … LHP Matt Moore is the third Ray to start 6-0, joining Jeff Niemann (2010) and James Shields (2007). … The Rays' 30 first-inning runs match the most in the majors. … Maddon started four lefties against Toronto LHP Ricky Romero based on his past track record as a "reverse-split" pitcher who has been tougher on right-handed hitters. … Former Rays INF prospect Derek Dietrich, traded for SS Yunel Escobar, was called up by the Marlins.