DETROIT — With two starting pitchers already on the disabled list, the Rays want to keep a watchful eye on All-Star LHP David Price.
Manager Joe Maddon said Price's workload has been "very harsh lately" in terms of innings pitched and pitches, which is why they've decided to push his next scheduled start back two days to Monday against the AL West-leading Rangers. RHP Andy Sonnanstine will step in Saturday against the Orioles, followed by RHP Jeremy Hellickson Sunday.
Price (15-5), who is at 1452/3 innings, said he feels fine physically: "My body feels good, my legs feel good, my arm feels fantastic." But he supported the move, saying an extra day or two can help and he'll still have the same number of starts (10) the rest of the season.
"I have no problem with it," he said.
The Rays were deciding whom to start Saturday for RHP Jeff Niemann (shoulder strain), thinking it could be either Sonnanstine or Price, who could have pitched on regular rest thanks to Thursday's off day. Sonnanstine, who was impressive Sunday in a spot start in Toronto (giving up one run over 51/3 innings), said he was eager for another chance. After spending a large part of the previous two seasons in the rotation, Sonnanstine lost the fifth starter's job out of camp to RHP Wade Davis and has been used mostly as the Rays long reliever.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic," Sonnanstine said. "I've been waiting for an opportunity like this."
Maddon said they've tentatively mapped out how their rotation lines up with each opponent the rest of the season, "with a few caveats," but will continue to monitor Price in the final couple of months.
"We're expecting to play at the end of the year," Maddon said. "We want to make sure he's not totally overboard when it gets to playoff time."
HELP PLEASE? RHP Matt Garza, who has lost his past two starts despite giving up a combined three earned runs, has taken the hard luck in stride.
"It's a lose-win situation," Garza said. "Yeah it was great to pitch great, but we lost. So it really doesn't go down as a good outing. It goes down as a loss. You're going to get days like that. You've got to brush that one off and get ready for the next one."
TOUGH CALL: OF Matt Joyce had already rounded third when he was doubled off second base in the sixth, thanks to a great diving catch by RF Brennan Boesch on a low liner. Joyce was trying to score in a 1-1 game.
"I saw where everybody was playing," Joyce said. "He just made a great play, you have to tip your cap. If he doesn't catch it, I'm scoring."
Maddon had no problem with Joyce's decision.
"All game Boesch was playing right behind second base," Maddon said. "If that ball drops it might have been an inside-the-park home run. They made an aggressive play, I commend them for that."
A FIRST: 1B Dan Johnson found himself in an unusual spot Wednesday, hitting leadoff for the first time in his professional career. With C John Jaso, the Rays' usual leadoff hitter against right-handers, having started four straight games, Maddon wanted to give him a day off and felt Johnson — who had tied a club record with four walks Tuesday — the next best option.
Johnson has walked 12 times in 33 plate appearances since getting called up last week, giving him a .441 on-base percentage despite a .143 batting average.
But he had a rough day Wednesday, going 0-for-4 with a walk, and popped out to C Gerald Laird with the bases loaded in the second.
"It's frustrating," he said. "I felt in my situations that I just didn't square it up."
MISCELLANY: Maddon said the reason INFs Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac didn't start during the three-game series with the Tigers was due to tough pitching matchups, especially with RHPs Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. … According to Baseball America, the Rays agreed to terms with ninth-round pick C Jake DePew for $460,000. … Willy Aybar is hitting .111 (3-for-27) in his past nine games.