BRADENTON — Rays manager Joe Maddon was eager to see LHP David Price make his spring debut Saturday.
“His focus has been unbelievable. I’m watching his bullpens and I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’ ” Maddon said before Price’s start against the Pirates at McKechnie Field.
Price allowed a hit (3B Logan Forsythe dropped a line drive in the first inning), a run and hit a batter in his 1ª innings in what ended as a 2-2 tie.
“I thought he looked really good again,” Maddon said after the game. “The curveball hit the hitter in the foot, but that was still a pretty good breaking ball, something to work off of. Threw a couple of good change-ups, a good fastball. I don’t know what the fastball was, but a lot of movement from the side.”
Price was pleased with his outing.
“That’s a positive. I definitely want to be ahead in more counts, throw more first-pitch strikes, but my body feels good,” he said.
Price said the key to having a better first half of 2014 than he had in 2013 is staying healthy. Right now, he feels he’s further along than he was at this point last spring.
“Usually after live BPs you feel like you kind of took a couple of steps back even if you threw the ball extremely well in live BP,” he said. “This is the first time you face the hitters. This is the first time you ramp it up. You probably think you’re throwing 100 percent in the bullpen, the first time you see that hitter and he’s trying to turn it around, that’s when you really get close to 100 percent with everything you got. I feel really good.”
Nine is fine
RHP Grant Balfour, who makes his spring debut today, was asked recently how many appearances he needs to pitch this spring to get ready for the regular season.
“I’m scheduled to pitch in nine, so nine,” Balfour said.
Last spring, Balfour pitched in four games with Oakland after missing the first half of camp rehabbing from mid-February arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. He didn’t pitch in a game until March 21.
“And I had a great year,” Balfour said. “I came out the chute like 26-for-26 (in save opportunities). So who knows?”
Balfour saved a career-high 38 games last season. He didn’t blow his first save until July 23.
“I feel like (spring appearances) can be overdone, 10, 11, 12, that’s too much,” Balfour said. “I could have thrown those last three or four during the season. I think four is a little short, but I got it done and I was able to do it, and I felt great, actually. But I would say between seven and 10, that area, that’s probably normal.”
Just as he was during Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Orioles, Maddon was again pleased with his pitching during Saturday’s game.
“You saw some really good stuff,” Maddon said.
RHP Brad Boxberger, competing for the final spot in the bullpen, walked one and struck out two in his one inning.
“They got bad looks at him, I thought,” Maddon said.
LHP Mike Montgomery pitched a perfect inning.
“Monty, nice,” Maddon said. “The big thing about him is the way he goes about his business. He’s very calm and threw strikes, and I kind of liked it.”
Maddon was also pleased with RHP Matt Andriese, who allowed a bunt single to the first batter he faced and got the next batter to ground into a double play.
Maddon said 2B Ben Zobrist will play in his first game either Monday or Tuesday. ... RHP Alex Cobb, today’s starter against the visiting Twins, is slated to pitch two innings. ... Forsythe started at third base Saturday after starting at second base Friday. He will also get work at first base this spring. ... RHP Joel Peralta is scheduled to make his spring debut this afternoon.