ST. PETERSBURG — LHP David Price's initial goal tonight is to get out of the first inning a little quicker than he did in his last start.
"I'd like to throw three pitches in the first as opposed to 43," Price said.
What salvaged Saturday's start in Oakland was how he came back to get through the sixth, throwing only 55 pitches over the next five innings.
The Rays are monitoring Price's workload in his first full major-league season — 157? innings and 2,595 pitches going into tonight — but haven't talked about a strict limit. For his part, Price, who turned 25 on Thursday, said everything — "body, arm, legs, back" — feels good.
He is second in the AL with (a team-record) 15 wins and fourth in ERA at 2.97. As if his high-quality repertoire of fastball, curve and slider isn't enough, he's talking about making more use of his changeup and experimenting with something else.
But his primary focus tonight is shutting down the Red Sox. "This is definitely a big series," Price said.
DO THE WAIVE: Finishing behind the Yankees last year could pay off for the Rays now. Though the Rays and Yankees currently have the same record, the tiebreaker to determine the order of waiver claims is based on last year's record, so the Rays would have claiming priority over the Yankees.
And that could be of importance with reports that a number of players of potential interest to both teams, possibly including Manny Ramirez, are on waivers that end today, timed to allow for the weekend and requisite two days to work out a deal by Tuesday's deadline for postseason roster eligibility.
REMEMBER HIM? DH/1B Dan Johnson could get his first chance this weekend to face Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon since hitting the home run in the Sept. 9, 2008, game at Boston.
"I haven't seen him since then," Johnson said. "It was just one of those things where I happened to be in the right place at the right time."
X OUT: Triple-A pitching coach Xavier Hernandez is leaving the Rays organization at the end of the season to return to his alma mater, Houston Baptist, as an assistant coach. Hernandez has been with the Rays for nine seasons, the past four in Durham. The former big-league pitcher was a coach at HBU before coming to the Rays and said he wants to spend more time at home with his family.
MINOR MATTERS: The Rays extended their working agreement with the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs though 2012, hardly a surprise because the Rays are part-owners and have spring training there. Agreements are also expiring with Double-A Montgomery, Class A Bowling Green and short-season A Hudson Valley. … LHP Matt Moore ran his minors-high strikeout total to 197 with 10 more (in six innings).
HELLICKSON REPORT: RHP Jeremy Hellickson allowed four runs on four hits over 12/3 innings in his first relief appearance for Charlotte on Thursday. He walked two and struck out four, throwing 41 pitches. He was sent down to learn how to work out of the bullpen in advance of an expected Sept. 1 return. Hellickson is one of five finalists for the USA Today minor-league player of the year award. The others: Phillies OF Domonic Brown (a star at Pasco High), Braves 1B Freddie Freeman, Royals 3B Mike Moustakas and Mariners RHP Michael Pineda.
MISCELLANY: The Red Sox games must not be close to selling out. The Rays said tickets remain available in all categories except club seats. … Manager Joe Maddon liked how C John Jaso looked playing first base Wednesday but he didn't bite when asked if that was a possible destination if the position is open next season: "I'm not thinking that far ahead."