When Will Tampa Bay Call Up Price?

Peter ScaliaContributor IApril 6, 2009

PORT CHARLOTTE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses during Photo Day on February 20, 2009 at the Charlotte County Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida. (Photo by: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Now that the '09 baseball season is underway, fans and writers alike can start to tinker (if only in their heads) with the roster of their team, so they will know what to complain about when it is not getting done on the field.

With the Tampa Bay Rays shipping possible No. 5 starter Jason Hammel to Colorado for another pitching prospect Aneury Rodriguez, Jeff Niemann was given the opportunity to prove himself as a starting pitcher in the major leagues.

Handed the fifth starting spot, Niemann now finds himself in the worst place you can be mentally as a young pitcher, "Don't Screw Up."

It wont take much this season for the fans in the Trop to turn on the 6'9" righty from Texas. While Neimann struck out just over a batter per inning (1.01) during his four seasons in the Rays farm system, he also managed to walk 140, including 50 last year with Durham.

Neimann is going to have to be superb because if you ask around baseball fans in St. Petersburg, they will tell you he is no David Price.

Highly publicized  pitcher David Price will hone his craft in Durham this year with two other top-flight pitching prospects in Mitch Talbot and Wade Davis. They are all working in the International League, trying to make it to the show.

Any of these three could right now be a legitimate No. 4 or No. 5 starter in the major leagues. Price did see serious work in the 2009 playoffs, picking up a win and a save while striking out four Red Sox in the ALCS, and that will help him in the long run.

Price is the standard blue chip prospect. Drafted No. 1 in the 2007 draft, Price has been on a B-line to the pros since signing his contract, amassing an 11-0 record through the A and AA levels.

Price didn't suffer a loss until reaching Durham, where he went 1-1 in four games before being called up to the Rays expanding roster at the end of last season.

He pitched in five games, four in relief, striking out 12 while surrendering only four free passes.

So with Neimann facing Jeremy Guthrie, Bartolo Colon, and Ryan Rowland-Smith in his first three outings of the season, the Rays who needs to be watching their rear-view mirrors are Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine.

Garza draws the scary road of Daisuke Matsuzaka, A.J. Burnett, and Jose Contreras, while Sonnanstine gets the slightly safer but also dangerous Mark Hendrickson, Andy Pettitte, and Jarrod Washburn in his first three starts.

So if you are already mentally planning a cou-de-ta of the lower portion of the defending AL champs rotation, take a breath, have a Coke and smile.


Know that the Red Sox and Yankees are spending billions of dollars to find the right players to compete with a team that is log-jammed with young, major league-ready talent.