ARLINGTON, Texas — As much as LHP David Price likes to keep things the same, something will be different tonight when he takes the mound at Rangers Ballpark, pitching for the first time as a 27-year-old after celebrating his birthday on Sunday's unusual off day.
"Hopefully not too much different," Price said. "I don't think the ball is going to come out of my hand any different. So hopefully I can go out there and just continue doing the same thing I've been doing."
But what about older, wiser …
"I'll definitely be older," he said. "Hopefully I'll be a little wiser. I don't know about the maturity level; that's probably always going to stay pretty low. It's all about having fun — that's what we do."
Price takes the mound tonight leading the majors with a 2.28 ERA and with a chance to become the first to 17 wins. Talk of the Cy Young Award and the first 20-win season in Rays history is only going to increase from here, but beyond a casual, "It would be awesome," Price doesn't like talking about either, insisting his focus is on helping the Rays win each of his starts.
And that is usually a tall task in Texas, where the Rays have had their problems.
"Everything comes into effect," Price said. "The lineup, the ballpark, the temperature, everything. The fans there are very loud. It's a tough place to play. It's a tough place to go in and win. So I've got to go out there and throw the ball the same way I have been, try to get some early strikes, some early outs and have some quick innings."
NIEMANN OKAY: The Rays say RHP Jeff Niemann is okay after being hit on the right hand by a line drive in Saturday's rehab start for Triple-A Durham.
Niemann left after four innings and went for X-rays, which were negative. He is expected to join the Rays in Texas for treatment and to continue preparations to rejoin the team, most likely on Saturday when rosters are expanded.
Niemann was making his fourth, and supposedly final, rehab start, having been out since mid May with a broken right leg.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: The Rays should announce today their rotation plans for the rest of the week, or at least who will start Wednesday. They have been weighing moving LHP Matt Moore up a day giving RHP Alex Cobb extra rest, or staying in order and giving both an extra day. … Also to be determined is how much third base Evan Longoria will play this week. He is hoping to return to the field on a regular basis, but with the Rays scheduled to face left-handed starters in four games, manager Joe Maddon said he would consider using Jeff Keppinger, who is going to be in the lineup anyway, at third and keeping Longoria at DH.