Price will make his third Opening Day start for Rays
Ace left-hander also opened the season for Tampa Bay in 2011 and '13
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Joe Maddon did not surprise anybody Thursday morning when he announced that David Price would be the Rays' Opening Day starter.
Tampa Bay's manager made the announcement that the club's ace would take the Tropicana Field mound on March 31 to kick off the Rays' season in a 4:10 p.m. ET contest against the Blue Jays.
"After many hours of discussion and back and forth among the staff and discussion on my Twitter account, we've decided to go with David Price as the Opening Day starter," Maddon teased.
While the announcement that Price will take the prestigious pole position was hardly a surprise, the 28-year-old southpaw still appeared genuinely excited.
"Any time you're asked to throw the first game of the season for your club, it's a big day," Price said. "We take pride in it. It's a very special feeling for that Opening Day, whether you're pitching it or whether you're on the bench. I've been on the bench on Opening Day and it still gives you goose bumps, the national anthem, everything that goes on.
"You know during Opening Day, it's very special for us and it kicks off our season. So it's always good to get the ball rolling, and I'm the one that got the nod, so I'm very fortunate for that."
Price experienced a tough start in 2013, when he went 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA in his first nine starts before going on the disabled list with a triceps strain. After being sidelined for more than a month, he finished at 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA.
Price has earned the Opening Day nod twice previously in his career. His first came in 2011, after he went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA the year before, but James Shields claimed the honor in '12. Price went on to win the American League Cy Young Award in '12 after going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA and was given the Rays' Opening Day assignment last year. Shields holds the record for most Opening Day starts for Tampa Bay with four.
"We're at home, I'm the one that gets to throw [the first pitch of the season]," Price said. "Try and set the tone the top half of that first inning and just let it go from there. Hopefully get the ball rolling in the first couple of innings, build momentum throughout the rest of the game and throughout the rest of the series."
Perhaps the biggest surprise where Price is concerned is not that he would be the Opening Day starter, rather that he would still be with the Rays after a winter when rumors swirled daily about where he might get traded before the 2014 season.
"Could have [been elsewhere]," Price said. "But I'm definitely pumped to be here."
Count Maddon among those sharing Price's sentiment about still wearing a Rays uniform.
"All I know is this: when you see him here now, I try to visualize him not being here now and the different feeling that would engender," Maddon said. "And it would be an entirely different feeling without him being here. So it's really good to have him back, man. You have to play that mind game with yourself. 'What would it be like if he wasn't here?' Not nearly the vibe that we have going on now."
Maddon and his coaching staff have not yet decided on the order of the rotation for the beginning of the season.
"We're still looking at it," Maddon said. "You could probably write a list down, a pecking order you think makes sense, but we'll look at the entire month and how it breaks down for the following guys to pitch. And if there's any better setup regarding who should be [second], who to [pitch third], etc. We'll make that announcement relatively soon because we have to, but we're still looking at a couple of little different things that may impact the first month of the season."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.