ST. PETERSBURG — The chatter about the need for a closer is only going to get louder as the season goes on.
It's not only the fans talking and typing about it. Scouts are routinely asking what the Rays are going to do and say they won't get far, and certainly not to the postseason, without one. Speculation about potential trade candidates such as Colorado's Huston Street and Houston's Jose Valverde has already started, though with supposedly no financial flexibility (if that's really the case), the Rays seem unlikely to swing a deal.
There appears to be another option: laser-throwing lefty David Price, who did pretty well closing out a few kinda big games in October.
A case can be made, given his struggles to pitch deep into games and with Scott Kazmir on the way back, to move Price, 23, to the back end of the bullpen.
But manager Joe Maddon said it's not going to happen. They want to keep Price a starter and flipping him to relief short term is "not anything we want to do."
And he has a couple of choice words (no, not those words) for those who think the Rays should do it: Sandy Koufax.
"This is a young man we think can be absolutely one of the best starters in the American League, so when you're dealing with that you have to absorb some growth moments, which we're doing right now. For us, David is going to be all that," Maddon said.
"Ask people if they've ever heard of a pitcher by the name of Sandy Koufax, and what it was like when he first began pitching."
Well, okay. In Koufax's first two seasons, at ages 19-20, he was 4-6, 4.13 with 57 walks and 60 strikeouts in 1001/3 innings. From there, he merely went 161-81, 2.70, with 760 walks and a sizz-ling 2,336 Ks in 2,224 innings, and to the Hall of Fame.
Maddon did allow that if the Rays got to the postseason, and their starters were in order, moving Price to the pen "might be something possible." Price said he wants to remain a starter but would go if asked: "I'd do it because they told me to do it.''
Plus, Price's problem has been throwing strikes, which is even worse in the ninth. (And a similar reason why Kazmir wouldn't be good to switch, either.)
More likely than a trade ("Somebody please write down the list of available closers; I'd love to see it," Maddon said), expect the Rays to keep trying internal options (Triple-A sudden star Winston Abreu?), looking to catch a bolt.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.