PORT CHARLOTTE — Thursday's announcement was just a formality really, manager Joe Maddon making official what everyone knew for months: If LHP David Price was still with the Rays, he would be their opening day starter.
But that didn't make it any less special.
"All I know is this," Maddon said, "when you see him here now, I try to visualize him not being here now and the different feeling that would engender. And it would be an entirely different feeling without him being here. So it's really good to have him back."
Price, among those who expected a trade during the winter, said he was very pleased and excited to instead make his third opening day start for the Rays.
"I'm definitely pumped to be here," Price, 28, said. "Anytime you're asked to throw the first game of the season for your club is a big day. It's a very special feeling for that opening day."
Even though the rest of the rotation seems to be set up — with the No. 5 to be named — Maddon said they are "still looking at a couple little different things" that could alter the order based on their April schedule.
MOORE BETTER: As rough as LHP Matt Moore's last outing went, when he threw 41 pitches and failed to get out of the first inning, he figured Thursday had to be better.
And while it wasn't great — 3? scoreless innings with two hits, three walks, three strikeouts and only 34 strikes among 69 pitches while hitting 94 mph — he was somewhat pleased in the 4-1 win over Pittsburgh.
"I think it was pretty hard to have a negative after last time," he said. "It was definitely a step forward."
Moore's spring issues are mechanical, as his long arm stroke proves difficult to get into rhythm with his body. "I think things were a little more in synch," he said. "We talked about a rhythm, it felt like that rhythm was a little more under control."
ROSTER REDUCTION: RHP Nathan Karns was among eight players sent to the minors Thursday, reducing the roster to 44 and the competition for the No. 5 starter's spot to RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHPs Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos.
Also optioned to Triple A: RHP Kirby Yates, LHPs Jeff Beliveau and C.J. Riefenhauser, INFs Vince Belnome and Hak-Ju Lee, and OF Kevin Kiermaier. OF Mikie Mahtook was reassigned to minor-league camp.
Maddon said Karns, acquired from Washington just before spring training, showed well and will help in the future: "I think he's got great makeup, and he's a major league pitcher. There's still a couple of things we want him to work on."
Lee showed he has recovered from the left knee injury and surgery that sidelined him most of 2013.
OVIEDO ON THE WAY: RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo's long visa delay is over, and he could be in camp today, agent Andy Mota emailed. Oviedo — who has previous issues with identity fraud — required a special waiver that was approved Thursday, and he just needed to get his visa stamped before he could leave the Dominican Republic.
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Oviedo is expected to play a key role in the bullpen, and Maddon said this week that it was still possible he could be ready for opening day since he had been throwing regularly.
GAME DETAILS: The Rays (8-3-2) rapped four straight hits to open the third inning, and five overall, in scoring four runs, with 2B Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar knocking in two each. "They did a nice job of moving the baseball," Maddon said. … RHP Heath Bell, with an effective two-seam fastball, and nonroster RHP Juan Sandoval and LHP Adam Liberatore were sharp in relief. … OF Brandon Guyer had two hits.
MISCELLANY: RHP Jeremy Hellickson said he felt good the morning after Wednesday's first throwing session following Jan. 29 elbow surgery. … LHP Jake McGee will throw in a minor-league game today in Port Charlotte. … A small group of Rays will work out at the Trop today to get a feel for the look of the renovations to the batter's-eye backdrop.