DETROIT — Having been beaten by LHP David Price in two of his past three starts, the Tigers know how talented the All-Star starter is already.
And they say the scary part is, Price can still get better.
"He's really, really good," Tigers C Gerald Laird said. "Once he gets the command of his offspeed pitches a little better, he's going to be lights out. … Once he gets that, he's going to be great for a long time."
Price, 24, who picked up his club-record 15th win Monday, beat the Tigers primarily with his fastball, which reached 100 mph.
"He's a lefty, and he throws 98, 99, 100 — it's real hard to face him," SS Jhonny Peralta said. "More than anything, the ball out of his hands, it's hard to see."
Price has struck out 18 Tigers his past two starts against them.
Said Laird: "When (Price's fastball) comes out of the hand, and it has that little giddy-up as it comes through the zone. It's got some life."
As for Price reaching 100 mph on his 115th pitch, Laird smiled, saying, "That's called 'gifted.' "
ROTATION STATION: Manager Joe Maddon said they could decide today who will start Saturday, either Price or RHP Andy Sonnanstine. Maddon praised Sonnanstine for his start Sunday, when he gave up one run over 51/3 innings, but with Thursday's off day, Price could pitch on regular rest Saturday.
Either way, Maddon believes that, "best-case scenario," RHPs Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis — both on the disabled list with right shoulder strains — will miss just two turns in the rotation, "three at the worst."
Maddon said if everything goes according to plan, neither Niemann nor Davis would need a rehab start, instead using bullpen sessions and a simulated game before returning.
MEDICAL MATTERS: 1B Carlos Peña left Tuesday for Tampa to be with his wife, Pamela, for the birth of their child, who is due Thursday. Before that, Peña had a good day on the field testing his injured right foot, with Maddon saying "there's a pretty solid chance" he could be available Monday when he's eligible to come off the DL. "If not," Maddon said, "soon after that."
Peña, rehabbing a right plantar fascia sprain, jogged around the infield Tuesday, did some agility drills and hit in the cage.
REPEAT THE FEAT? RHP Matt Garza's last start against the Tigers ended in memorable fashion, the Rays' first no-hitter. He said he plans to stick with what works. Against the Tigers, Garza primarily used his fastball, but he has been encouraged with how his other pitches have been coming along.
"My stuff is getting better, my stuff is getting sharper, which is weird for this time of year," Garza said. "During the middle of the year, I didn't have any of my breaking balls, now they're coming back."
EK-STRA HELP: RHP Mike Ekstrom, recalled from Triple-A Durham on Monday when Davis was put on the DL, said he's excited to be back with the Rays. Ekstrom, who made the opening day roster before getting optioned down April 27, went 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 34 appearances for the Bulls.
"It's just comfortable down there," Ekstrom said. "A lot of guys are having success so it's kind of contagious."
Maddon said Ekstrom will most likely be used in extra-inning situations, early in games, or if the bullpen has been extended too much.
MISCELLANY: Rocco Baldelli went 2-for-5 with two RBIs as leadoff hitter for Class A Charlotte on Monday. He is batting .315 (5-for-16) in four games in the leadoff spot to .227 (5-for-22) out of the sixth spot. … ESPN has announced it will carry the Rays-Red Sox game Aug. 29 at Tropicana Field, with the game time moved from 1:40 to 8 p.m.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]