OAKLAND, Calif. — When LHP David Price throws the first pitch tonight, the Rays will tie an obscure but interesting — and telling — major-league mark, their 704th consecutive game started by a pitcher under 30 years old.
The streak — which started after RHP Jae Seo pitched on his 30th birthday May 24, 2007 — will match the 1913-17 Washington Senators.
The Rays view it as a credit to their organizational philosophies (drafting or trading for young starters, not signing free agents), to their training and medical staff (using an MLB-low 14 starters in that span), and to their scouting and player development departments (the eight used this season were homegrown).
"It's a testament to the organization," said RHP James Shields, the senior member of the staff.
"Pretty special," said Price.
Making the accomplishment more significant, manager Joe Maddon said, is that the Rays have had a winning record in that stretch (377-326, fifth best in MLB) and been in the playoffs twice.
"Anybody could say, we've started a bunch of guys under 30 years of age and we're trying to become competitive," Maddon said. "We've been competitive. We've been there with this group. That's fantastic. I love that."
The Rays likely will extend the record to 764 at the end of the season. But Shields turns 30 in December, so if the Rays pick up his $7 million option for 2012, their run will end quickly. "Hopefully," he said, "I get to stop that streak next year."
TRADE WINDS: CF B.J. Upton figuratively — and literally — threw up his arms Monday as speculation and rumors spread about possible trade destinations. "I've got nothing," he said.
While Upton's fate, and that of others such as Johnny Damon, could hinge on how the Rays play this week, Shields seemingly remains unlikely to be moved.
Maddon said Monday, as he told Sirius/XM Radio, that he has discussed 64-66 trade scenarios with executive VP Andrew Friedman and none involved Shields. "We have not discussed that," Maddon said.
There seem to be many possibilities for Upton, with the already-mentioned Braves, Giants, Indians, Nationals and Phillies "joined" Monday by the Pirates and (with an eye to 2012) Royals.
If the amount of interest being reported is anywhere close to the reality, and the Rays can get the kind of top-shelf young players they typically want, Upton would seem likely to be traded by Sunday's 4 p.m. deadline for non-waiver deals.
The Rays would have several reasons: His arbitration-driven salary, expected to exceed $7 million in 2012; his inconsistent play; having Desmond Jennings to replace him.
Also, that the Rays have made several runs at signing Upton to a long-term deal without agreeing, making it likely he would leave as a free agent after next season anyway. So unless the Rays think they can get more in the offseason or next July, it would make sense to act now if they get the proper return.
As of Monday night anyway, it had been just speculation. How wild? In a four-hour span Monday, a Baltimore-area radio reporter posted on Twitter that the Phillies were in talks to get Upton, then that the Phillies had no interest in him, then that he was headed to Washington.
PITCHING IN: RHP Alex Cobb said the blister on his right index finger that forced him from Sunday's game was already healing and he, and the trainers, are confident he will make his next start on Saturday. … RHP Adam Russell, designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and will join Triple-A Durham.
MISCELLANY: President Matt Silverman joined the team for the rest of the trip. … 3B Evan Longoria, after a career-high tying four strikeouts on Sunday, drew a career-high four walks on Monday. ... Price got to hang out Sunday night with fellow Vanderbilt product RHP Sonny Gray, the A's top pick who signed Monday. … Several players — skirting the Rays usual no-fast food policy — were munching pregame on the west-coast favored In-N-Out burgers.