PORT CHARLOTTE — If nothing else, Rays pitcher David Price might have cleaned up in the race for oddest injury of the spring.
Price was forced to leave Thursday's game with a neck spasm after toweling himself off too vigorously.
Call it over-toweling.
Price claimed he was simply drying his head in the dugout after his second inning against the Tigers and, well, let's just let him tell it.
"The towel just catches the back of my head, and it pulls my neck forward," he said. "I just felt it a little bit in back of my neck and just wanted to be cautious with it.
"There's a little pop, and it just spasms up and gets a little tight."
Amazingly, Price said this has happened to him twice before — last spring and in September — and it usually takes 2-3 days to work itself out.
Naturally, Rays manager Joe Maddon had some suggestions to avoid such issues in the future:
• The athletic training staff serves as "cornermen," like legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, for Price: "Get in there, towel him down, get in his face, the shroud of David, that kind of thing. Let's stop having him towel himself down. We have plenty of people that can do that here."
• More instruction and repetition such as how legendary basketball coach John Wooden had his players practice putting on their socks to avoid blisters: "David might need better technique when it comes to toweling himself down. He's been doing it for 20-some years now but apparently doesn't have it down yet."
• Put it in the hands of home clubhouse/equipment manager Chris Westmoreland: "We might need more fabric softener in the towels."
Price, who said he felt the best he had all spring on the mound, ended up throwing 38 pitches (24 strikes) over two innings, one less than scheduled. Neither he nor Maddon expect his schedule to be disrupted, though the incident was frustrating.
But not enough, of course, to throw in the towel.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected].com.