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Rays notes: Price's recovery progresses with simulated game

Published:   |   Updated: June 14, 2013 at 07:30 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

In his first visit to Tropicana Field since being dealt to Kansas City, RHP James Shields put on a batting helmet Thursday afternoon and stepped into the batter's box to face former teammate LHP David Price.

While Shields will not take the mound for the Royals during the four-game homestand, Price continues to work his way back into the Rays' rotation while recovering from a strained triceps muscle in his pitching arm that landed him on the disabled list May 16.

Price took the next step in the recovery process, tossing a simulated game before batting practice. While he was throwing his warm-up pitches, Shields jumped into the box and playfully pointed his bat to the outfield but stepped out before Price started the game simulation.

After Price was done, throwing 54 pitches in three “innings” while facing Sean Rodriguez, Sam Fuld and Ryan Roberts, everything went better than expected for the reigning Cy Young Award winner.

“I felt very strong and the arm felt good,” Price said. “It was nice to see somebody standing in the box, so it was a good day overall.”

For the past few steps Price had been throwing bullpen action, but by throwing a simulated game it allowed him to get the feel for pitching, sitting in the dugout for a period of time before getting back out to the mound.

“It's not necessarily about the number of pitches you throw, it's how many times you get up and down,” Price said. “You sit in the dugout, and it will obviously be longer than what I was doing today, but you are out there pitching for however many minutes, then you go sit down and your body tries to cool off a little bit, so you want to get up and down as many times as possible because I think that's one of the biggest things that cause injuries.''

Price will take today off and throw a bullpen session Saturday, then take the next two days off before he does the next step in his recovery, which could be accelerated after what manager Joe Maddon saw Thursday.

“He looked like he could have pitched in an actual game (Thursday), his stuff was that good. … I thought he looked ready to go,'' Maddon said. “He's exceeding expectations a little bit, so we'll figure out where we are going to send him out (for a rehab assignment), but he's looking really good.''

Homecoming In his return to Tropicana Field, Shields was welcomed back with a video montage on the scoreboard followed by a “Thanks for the memories'' message that received a standing ovation from the fans. Shields was shown live on the scoreboard as he tipped his cap to the crowd and tapped his chest in appreciation.

Without a scheduled start during the series, Shields said he will treat it as a homecoming vacation, having brought his family with him along for the trip.

“I tried to finagle the schedule a little bit to come pitch against these guys,” Shields joked.

Hot corner Regular third baseman Evan Longoria was given the day off from the field Thursday — he slotted in his normal cleanup spot as the designated hitter — while normal left fielder Kelly Johnson moved to the infield to play third for the first time in his major league career.

In his first seven seasons in the majors with Arizona and Toronto, Johnson had only ever played second base or in the outfield, even though he was drafted as a shortstop.

Playing the left side of the infield is “like riding a bicycle, even if that bike had training wheels on it the last time you rode it,'' Johnson said.

Noteworthy Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield was named part of the American League staff for the All-Star game July 16 at Citi Field in New York. … The popular Joe Gnome garden statue will make a return to the giveaway schedule for the Aug. 3 game against the San Francisco Giants. … Of RHP Joel Peralta's American League-leading 35 appearances this season, 27 of them were scoreless heading into Thursday. … Wednesday's series finale against Boston recorded a 5.6 rating in Tampa on Sun Sports compared to a 3.8 rating for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on NBC.

Erik Erlendsson

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