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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
Martin Fennelly Columns

With Price, it’s only a matter of when

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Published:   |   Updated: June 27, 2014 at 06:09 AM

— Wednesday afternoon might have been last licks for David Price as a Ray at Tropicana Field.

He tipped his cap and waved to fans who stood and cheered as he left the game with the Pirates with one out in the ninth inning.

Price had wanted to finish, but manager Joe Maddon lifted him after his 120th pitch was a home run ball to Andrew McCutchen.

Was it Price’s final Rays pitch?

And haven’t we asked that before? A lot?

I would have let him finish.

About tipping his hat and waving to the fans …

“If this is my last game here, thanks,” Price said.

How much is that pitcher in the window?

If this was it, let it be known that Price was all in against the Pirates: one run, five hits, 11 more strikeouts, dominant.

... And they’re trading him.

Then again, I have in the past nine months attended one other David Price final home start as a Ray (his last Trop start in 2013) and two other David Price final starts as a Ray (Game 163 in Texas and Game 2 of the ALDS in Boston).

I’m telling you, one of these times I’m going to be right.

It’s the deal the Rays have to make. It’s not just because they stink this season. The Rays tried to move Price last offseason. Trading Price has always been about trading Price. It’s inevitable. It has always been only a matter of when.

I’m not saying it won’t sting when it actually happens. Trading a Cy Young winner, that’s a Rays first. Price is 28, in his prime. Have they ever made the playoffs without him?. He’s one of the 10 best pitchers in the game. He leads the majors in strikeouts. He’s on pace for 292

Come and get him.

It’s the world the Rays live in, without apology, one eye always on the future. The reality is that the Rays don’t draft and develop so much as they trade and play. You can’t trade unless you have good players. Price is a great player. You make the deal if it’s there, if there is a killing to be made. Yes, the Rays have to make a killing. If they’re ever going to hold out for more, why not do it with the best pitcher they’ve ever had?

Here’s another reason why you deal Price: He wants it.

I think he’s sick of being in limbo. Been a bit of a sour ball about it, in fact.

Just so you know: You could pay me $14 million a year to be in limbo any time.

Wednesday, Price struck out at least 10 batters for his fifth consecutive start, the first pitcher to do that in 10 years. He was the zeroed-in Price, blocking out rumors, the unknown, everything, as he did while winning 163 last season, a complete game, to get the Rays to the postseason. He was the David Price of his 2012 Cy Young season. He was the Price who met all the expectations that went with being the top pick in the draft, the Price who as a rookie call-up in 2008 closed out the American League pennant in Game 7 against Boston. “There was no fear in the eyes,” Maddon remembers.

Wednesday, he remained Price the cheerleader. Price watched Ben Zobrist go in the hole at shortstop to start a terrific double play. He saw Evan Longoria range down the line in left, into the Pirates bullpen, to make a wonderful catch. He saw Desmond Jennings’ great grab in dead center. Price waited on the field to slap Zobrist, Longoria and Jennings’ gloves at the end of the innings.

He wanted to finish what he started.

“That would have been cool,” Price said with a smile. “I think (James) Shields, in his last start here, gave up one (run) and we lost 1-0. I’m pretty sure he threw a complete game, punched out 15, set all sorts of records. It’s something I wanted to do for sure.

“My last batter at Vanderbilt was a home run. My last batter last year when I thought I was done (with the Rays) was a home run (in the ALDS). You guys think I’m out of here, and my last hitter for the Rays was a home run. Take that into consideration.”

The Rays are going to trade the best pitcher they’ve ever had.

It’s only a matter of when.

Maybe I’ll see you at his next final game as a Ray at the Trop.

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