We’ve tried hard to ignore the facts here at Bus Leagues, but it can’t be overlooked anymore: Jay Bruce, our first blog-crush, is gone for good, never to return. And while we couldn’t be happier to observe his early success in The Show from afar, his career growth has left an obvious void in our lives.
Who will we discuss in hushed tones over Gmail Chat? Whose name will grow exponentially in the tag cloud as we pen seven posts a week about his most recent exploits? Which top prospect will become our new blog-crush?
I’ve thought about it for a couple days now, and while I can’t speak for my man Extra P, I think I’ve found the new object of my blogging affection: Rays lefthander David Price.
Price missed the first several weeks of the season while recovering from a muscle strain in his left elbow, but has dominated since, striking out 19 and walking only two in 18 innings for Vero Beach (High A – Florida State League). In his second start, he squared off against Pedro Martinez, in town for a rehab assignment before heading back to the Mets. And after the game, Petey – a guy who never got enough credit for the mental side of his pitching – had the highest praise for the 23-year-old Price:
“That kid did a hell of a job of throwing first-pitch strikes and pounding the strike zone and jamming hitters…I was watching that. He did it like a big leaguer. He had such a command. Right there, I’m challenging you. I’m going to do what I gotta do without any fear. That’s the kind of talent you love to see.”
Oddly enough, one of the knocks on Price has been that he doesn’t command his pitches well in the strike zone. Obviously, Martinez saw something different, which either means he doesn’t have a future as a scout or he looks from things from a perspective no one else can see.
Though Price should receive a promotion at some point – as a college-tested pitcher, he was probably too good for High A ball without the elbow injury – I never expected him to make an appearance in Tampa Bay in 2008…until this item at the top of an MiLB.com mailbag on Tuesday:
Now that [Rays prospect] David Price has finally pitched for the first time in almost a year, how long do you think it will take him to reach the Majors? Do you think the Rays will let him develop? Does he even need that much developing?
— Curtis S., Lake Placid, Fla.
Based on what I saw during Spring Training — including his stuff and composure — and how he’s pitched thus far, I think he has a good chance to be with the team in the second half of the season. He came to the Rays well-polished, so I think the Rays are receptive to the idea that he doesn’t need a lot of seasoning before putting on a Major League uniform.
I’m not a trained professional sportswriter, but my gut tells me that the Rays won’t rush Price along if they don’t feel it is necessary. Barring injury, the current rotation is solid, featuring James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Edwin Jackson, Andy Sonnanstine, and Matt Garza (none of whom is older than 26). Of course, they could always throw him in the bullpen, a la Jonathan Papelbon or Joba Chamberlain, especially if the Rays stick around in the race and make a run at the East divsion title. Still seems a bit early to make predictions like that, though, considering he has three career professional games under his belt.
It is so totally NOT early, however, to begin following the big guy’s progress through the minor leagues. I think 18 consecutive scoreless innings at the start of a career is reason enough.