PORT CHARLOTTE — After his last two eventful outings on the mound, LHP David Price joked that he needs to pitch with a screen in front of him.
Price, who was hit Wednesday on his right hand by a broken bat, started in a simulated game Monday against minor-leaguers. In the first inning, Price was clipped in his throwing hand by a grounder up the middle by minor-leaguer Emeel Salem.
Price was fine and looked sharp in a 60-pitch, controlled session, and he was able to laugh off the comebacker afterward.
"They took another pinkie," he said, smiling. "It's good, it's fine."
In addition to escaping injury-free, the 24-year-old was pleased with how he felt in the outing, where he had good command and was able to mix in his offspeed pitches. He said the curveball felt good and his slider had some depth, but he was most happy with his changeup, which he used a lot in the first two innings.
"(It) was a big day for my changeup I'd say," he said. "It felt really good."
Price said he's expecting to make his next start Saturday.
LITTLE THINGS: Though the Rays will continue to be aggressive on the bases, coming off a season in which they led the majors in steals (194), manager Joe Maddon also wants them to improve the quality of their baserunning. He said some points of emphasis will be on going from first to third and scoring from second.
"We were not really good as an organization last year going second to home," Maddon said. "I think it speaks to two things, secondary leads and really understanding where the outfielders are before the ball was hit. Those soft little bloopers that take off and then land, and guys hesitate on it. If you know where everybody is, you don't hesitate, you just break and go."
STEPPING UP: C John Jaso said some recent adjustments behind the plate may be helping him offensively. He said he has spent a lot of time with bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, as well as bullpen C Scott Cursi, working on his catching stance, among other things. Jaso, who had two hits, including a homer, in Sunday's game, has been receiving the ball better the past two games, Maddon said.
"I'm definitely feeling more comfortable, mentally," Jaso said. "Sometimes the frustration you have on defense, it can transfer to the offense. So I think the work I've been putting in … it's kind of paying off because I'm more relaxed and confident behind the plate. So hopefully, I'll be confident in the box."
NO WORRIES: Though 1B Carlos Peña has started the spring 0-for-18 after coming off offseason surgery to repair two broken fingers, Maddon isn't concerned. "I like the swing," he said. "The big thing about Carlos is the swing and the miss, and he's actually contacting the ball pretty well right now."
Peña has just four strikeouts this spring.