TAMPA — Besides joking that he finally had a way to get Chick-fil-A restaurants open on Sunday, David Price wasn't sure exactly what he was entitled to with the key to the city of Tampa he received Tuesday from Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
"I don't know what else I'm going to do with this yet," Price said. "I'll just try it on different locks."
One thing he won't be able to do — even with whatever powers were vested in him on officially proclaimed David Price Day — is bring back teammates James Shields and Wade Davis, who were traded to the Royals on Sunday.
In Shields, Price lost a close friend and a mentor, "a role model for every baseball player to watch whenever they're coming up," and in Davis, a pitcher he came up with through the minors admiring what he believed was better stuff.
"It's tough," Price said. "They definitely will be missed."
And even though Price won 20 games, posted an American League-best 2.56 ERA and won the Cy Young Award, he said that in Shields' and Davis' absence, he and his returning teammates will have to do more.
"Everybody, including myself, needs to step up and pitch better this year," Price said. "That's our plan right now. That's what we're working out (in the offseason) for. … Everybody's going to step up."
Though Jeff Niemann is two years older at 29, Price will be the most experienced member of the rotation next year and likely will be viewed as Shields' successor as the leader of the rotation.
Price said the close relationship the starters have should make that easier.
"We've all been together quite a while," he said. "We've got a good feel for each other. We enjoy it. If they want to look to me for advice, I'm an open book, and they know it. They can come up and talk to me whenever they want, they can call or text, it doesn't matter."
Price was the center of attention — though he had to share it with his French bulldog, Astro, who also got a key and then "spoke" — during Tuesday's afternoon ceremony at City Hall Plaza before a couple hundred fans.
Price had never been honored like that before — he joked that the only other key he had was to his condo — and seemed truly humbled by an honor he thought was reserved for war heroes. "You guys didn't have to do this," he told the crowd.
Buckhorn said it was his privilege. (It was only the second time he had given a key to an athlete, following 2012 Olympic track gold medalist Tianna Madison.)
"I know David. I know what a standup guy he is. I know what he represents. I know what he embodies. It's indicative of the entire organization," Buckhorn said. "To know that a Tampa resident and a member of our team was named basically the most valuable player really is an honor. So for me to be able to do this is the least that I could do for him."
And as for any awkwardness — given the stalemate over the Rays' stadium situation — of Tampa honoring Price for winning the Cy Young and not St. Petersburg, where the team plays, Buckhorn said he was just doing what seemed right. "I don't know what they do and what their protocol is and what their timing is," he said. "As soon as (the award) was announced, I said, 'Let's go see if we can make this happen.' It's a Tampa Bay team; he's a Tampa Bay guy. He lives here on Harbour Island. So it seemed to me that it would make sense. He brought national attention to the Tampa Bay area, and that's a good thing."
Staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]