PORT CHARLOTTE — The obviousness of the choice did not diminish the significance of being named the Rays' opening day starter for David Price.
"Just to be the guy that takes the ball for our organization first and foremost is very special," Price said. "And being at home, I'm throwing that first pitch for our season, that means a lot as well. … It's special for me to be able to run out on that field first and lead our team out there being the Rays."
Price, 27, was the clear choice for the April 2 assignment vs. the Orioles at Tropicana Field coming off his 2012 season, when he won the American League Cy Young Award after going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA. It will be the second of what Price hopes will be many opening day assignments.
"This is what you want to be," he said. "I don't just want to be the best on a staff, I want to be the best in baseball. That's what I strive to be year in and year out, and this is a starting point."
Manager Joe Maddon said he had to hold off until Tuesday —"for reasons unknown to mankind" — but that he knows Price thrives on such moments.
Maddon said he wasn't ready yet to announce the rest of the rotation but suggested it won't be set up as much based on lefty-righty — for example, Price (l), Jeremy Hellickson (r), Matt Moore (l), Alex Cobb (r), Roberto Hernandez/Jeff Niemann (r) —as protecting the bullpen, which suggests splitting up Hellickson and Moore, who typically don't go as deep into games.
Also, Maddon said the pitcher who wins the fifth starter job won't necessarily be fifth in the order, especially if it's Hernandez, who has been an innings-eater.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.