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Rays notes: Price makes strides, throws off mound

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Published:   |   Updated: June 7, 2013 at 11:07 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

David Price arrived at his locker stall Friday afternoon and put on his baseball gear.

The simple task proved another positive step in Price's recovery from a strained triceps in his pitching arm as the reigning Cy Young Award winner made his way out to the bullpen to throw off a mound for the first time since he was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 16.

Price had been doing some light throwing before Friday's next step in the process. Price finished the session after throwing 33 pitches, mixing in all of his pitches without feeling discomfort.

“It was a good day, I felt really good, and that's what we were looking for, to come away from this and feel good, have a smile on my face, and that's the way I feel right now,'' Price said.

The next step for Price will be to take two days off and throw another bullpen session on Monday. From there, he could pitch a simulated game before a target date is set for him to get back into the rotation.

In the meantime, Price said he is utilizing the time off to take a mental break from his rough start to the season as the Rays' Opening Day starter was 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA in nine starts to begin the season.

“Just giving myself a mental break, and that's probably a big reason why I have not gone on the road, so I can stay away from (the media) so I don't have everybody asking me how I feel every day,'' Price said. “So it's just a mental break from everything inside the clubhouse and everything that I was going through, and that's good.”

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said the reports on Price have been positive.

“I know he's been throwing very well, and (the trainers) are happy with his progress,” Maddon said.

Meant to be Tampa Bay's top pick in the first-year player draft, C Nick Ciuffo, felt all along he would be selected by the Rays, and it's not because some of the mock drafts had Tampa Bay targeting the South Carolina high school prospect.

The first major league game Ciuffo attended as a child was at Tropicana Field while he was on a Disney World vacation with his family when he was about 7 years old.

“Being the baseball fans me and my dad are, the real vacation for us was to get over to Tropicana Field to watch a major league baseball game,'' Ciuffo said.

So was it a coincidence that Ciuffo wound up being selected by the Rays?

“I think it's just destiny,'' he said.

Ciuffo has also played and caught Rays 2011 first-round pick RHP Tyler Guerrieri when the two played on the same travel team — the South Carolina Diamond Devils — for three seasons leading into Guerrieri's draft year.

Back in action LF Kelly Johnson returned to the lineup Friday after missing the final two games in Detroit with back spasms. The team co-leader in home runs and RBIs said the situation arose in an innocent way.

“It was really just trying to get up off of a table,'' he said. “Just, a back spasm kind of locked me up. Probably, if it had been a night game (Thursday), I would have been fine to play. … It's just weird, but better two games than a stint on the DL.''

Draft Day 2 The Rays finished up the second day of the draft with eight picks in rounds 3-7. After selecting a catcher, a right-handed pitcher and a shortstop on Day 1, Tampa Bay chose three middle infielders, one outfielder and four right-handed pitchers Friday. The final day of the draft is today with rounds 11-40.

“It was a good day,'' Tampa Bay director of scouting R.J. Harrison said. “It was a great night (Thursday) and it was a good day (Friday).''

Noteworthy The Division II national champion University of Tampa baseball team was honored before the game. The Spartan players took early batting practice on the field, and the entire team surrounded the pitcher's mound for the ceremonial first pitch. … Tampa Bay entered Friday batting .301 with runners in scoring position, best in the American League and second only to St. Louis in the majors. … LHP Jake McGee, who took a shot off his shin on Thursday, was fine and was available to pitch heading into Friday's game.

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