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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price excelling behind better curve, command

BALTIMORE — The two wins David Price has after his first two starts are nice.

But what he and manager Joe Maddon are most pleased about is how he has gotten them: throwing lots of strikes and incorporating a curveball into his arsenal that already includes fastball (four- and two-seam), slider and changeup.

"Overall, compared to the last couple years, fastball command is by far the thing that really strikes me. I saw that coming along in spring training," Maddon said. "And the development of the curveball. He really likes it now, and he's comfortable with it and he's confident with it."

Price has 14 strikeouts over 142/3 innings in his wins over the Yankees and Orioles, but it's the five walks he is most interested in, especially after walking 54 in 128 innings last season. He thought the three he issued last Friday were too many and was upset with the one he issued to leadoff man Felix Pie on Wednesday, especially after getting a 3-0 lead, calling it a "lack of concentration" on his part.

"I feel like I'm pounding the strike zone," Price said.

For the most part, he is. Of the 220 pitches he has thrown, 137 have been either strikes or hit and 83 have been balls.

Price said he is still working on the curveball, happy with only two of the 10 or so he threw Wednesday, including one Miguel Tejada knocked out of the park.

SWEEPING UP: The Rays swept their opening series on the road for the first time in team history. … They swept just one series of three or more games on the road all of last season, at Kansas City to open the second half. … It was the fourth time they've swept the Orioles.

EVENING UP: With the win, the Rays evened their all-time record against the Orioles to 105-105. The 105 wins are their most against opponent; they have 100 against Toronto. The Rays are 47-57 at Camden Yards.

CATCHING ON: Maddon expects Dioner Navarro to respond to the opportunity of playing on an almost everyday basis with Kelly Shoppach on the DL. Navarro, for example, will start three of the four games in Boston, with John Jaso getting his first shot Saturday or Monday.

"He's embracing this moment," Maddon said. "He's prepared himself for it. He's worked very hard this camp, so I feel very good about him. I think he's catching really well, he's blocking (pitches) really well, better at-bats. He's finally getting a chance to hit on the right side, which he's very good at."

EXTRA SPECIAL: Carlos Peña's 10th-inning homer on Tuesday was the eighth extra-inning blast of his career, and fourth as a Ray, all since the start of the 2008 season and most in the majors over that span. His 10 extra-inning RBIs in those two-plus seasons match Dodgers OF Matt Kemp for most in the majors.

"The desire to be in such situations is so great that eventually it just manifests itself," Peña said. "I've dreamed about those moments too many times, so maybe I've brought them upon myself."

MISCELLANY: Ben Zobrist's 16-game hitting streak, matching the fourth longest in franchise history, ended. … Miguel Tejada's first-inning error was the first of the season by a Rays opponent, coming in the 71st inning. … After playing the Orioles six times in the first nine games, the Rays don't see the Birds again until after the All-Star break. … Reid Brignac made his first start at short, allowing Jason Bartlett to get 2½ days rest before the next game Friday night. … The weather forecast for Boston isn't good, with temperatures in the low 40s and rain for Friday, and lows into the 30s on Saturday.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price excelling behind better curve, command 04/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 8:59pm]
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