ST. PETERSBURG — LHP David Price leads the majors in a trio of categories that might be related.
He’s first with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12.83 (77 strikeouts to only six walks), first in walks per nine innings at 0.78 and first in most hits allowed with 78.
Is it possible Price could be throwing too many strikes?
“Could be. Absolutely,” Price said. “These guys, I think they know I’m throwing the ball over the plate, and they want to go up there and hit.”
Allowing fewer hits is one area Price would like to improve upon this afternoon when he faces the Red Sox during the middle game of this three-game series.
“Giving up hits is never something I feel like a pitcher really gets used to, and it’s something I’ve done a lot of this year,” Price said. “And while I definitely take pride in commanding the strike zone, I’ve definitely felt like I’ve done a very good job of that this year. I just need to pick my spots more when to throw a strike, I guess.”
Price began this stretch of outstanding command last July when he returned from the disabled list. He issued one walk in his first seven starts. He’s walked just 21 batters in his last 28 starts. This season Price has thrown 1,071 pitches, 752 (70.2 percent) for strikes.
“When he’s not throwing strikes it’s because he doesn’t want to,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s got amazing ability to throw a strike when he wants to, and that to me is the real classic exceptional major league pitcher who’s able to do that.”
Freedom of speech
Maddon said he spoke to closer Grant Balfour before Friday’s game about comments Balfour made Thursday regarding the boos he heard at Tropicana Field after he blew a ninth-inning save.
The PG version was Balfour wasn’t happy with that, ah, stuff.
“I emphasized the point that it’s important he says what he wants to say,” Maddon said, “and then I gave him my take on everything beyond that. But in no way would I try to muzzle any of our guys.”
Maddon said he’s not trying to muzzle the fans, either.
“I’m all for freedom of speech around here,” Maddon said. “Some people say things that maybe I don’t totally agree with, but nevertheless, that’s part of the freedom component that I advocate.”
Thinking of Zim
Third base coach Tom Foley wore Don Zimmer’s jersey Friday night to let Zim know the team is thinking about him as he recovers from his April 16 heart surgery.
Foley will wear the jersey for the remainder of this series and possibly the rest of the season.
The Rays asked MLB if a different player could wear the jersey each game, but MLB suggested Foley, who normally wears No. 6. Joe Garagiola, Jr., MLB’s senior VP of standards and on-field operations, readily signed off on the idea.
The Hanigan plan
C Ryan Hanigan’s right hamstring is not 100 percent, according to Maddon, but it’s healthy enough for him to catch nine innings.
“I’m going to try and not push him too hard right now,” Maddon said. “The games that he hasn’t started he’s been able to come in, but I don’t want to push him back-to-back yet.”
SS Yunel Escobar recorded his 1,000th career hit Thursday ... The four runs scored in the 11th inning Thursday were the most ever scored by the Rays in extra innings during a home game. They’ve scored four or more during an extra inning seven times on the road ... 2B Sean Rodriguez became the first player to enter a game in extra innings as a defensive replacement and hit a walk-off homer since Baltimore’s Taylor Teagarden did it on June 24, 2012 against Detroit ... The Rays scored 21 runs in their nine games prior to Friday’s game yet have won four of those games.