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He's just who they wanted
Vanderbilt's Price has been at the top of the Rays' list for months.
By Marc Topkin
Published June 8, 2007
Vanderbilt University's David Price is ready to get started with the Rays. "I'm going to do anything Tampa Bay wants me to do," he said.
ST. PETERSBURG - Things haven't often worked out well for the Devil Rays. So when they earned the top pick in Thursday's draft by finishing last season with the worst record and executive vice president Andrew Friedman and scouting director R.J. Harrison immediately targeted Vanderbilt left-hander David Price as their top choice, it was almost a matter of seeing what could go wrong.
Eight months later, it couldn't appear to have gone more right.
Price stayed healthy, maintained his status as the nation's top college pitcher and dazzled on the mound. The Rays need an advanced prospect, especially a left-hander, for the front end of their rotation and soon. Contract negotiations are expected to be amicable and possibly quick.
"It's really a testament to David, " Friedman said Thursday. "It's really a testament to who he is as a player and who he is as a person because you don't see that very often where a player in October that you have first on your draft board, and you keep an open mind, and R.J. and his staff did that and went through the process, to maintain that rank is a great accomplishment. It really speaks volumes to him."
The Rays like everything about Price - his skill and talent on the mound, which led to an 11-1 record, 2.63 ERA and nation-leading 194 strikeouts and only 31 walks in 133 1/3 innings for the Commodores; his character, which they believe will keep him on the right path and out of trouble as he adjusts to the pro lifestyle; and his competitiveness, which they expect to fuel his desire to be successful. Realistically, he could join the rotation by the end of 2008 or 2009.
"I think he really enjoys what he's doing, and he enjoys the challenge of trying to be the best he can be, " Harrison said. "He told me (Wednesday) people have asked him if he can live up to all the expectations of being No. 1 overall, and he just told me ... my expectations of myself are higher than anyone could place on me. I just think he's a very confident young man and carries himself extremely well."
Price, 21, seemed equally appreciative and relatively unaffected. He watched the draft with family and teammates in Nashville, in front of an ESPN camera crew, comparing the occasion to signing with Vandy, winning an SEC championship and becoming an uncle with the birth of his nephew among the best days of his life. He said that to celebrate the occasion he would probably play golf and that his big plans for the ensuing bonus probably would be to add to his collection of 50 or so pairs of size-13 shoes.
"Now that the day's over with, I feel good, " Price said. "It's been kind of nerve-wracking."
The Rays held a "cursory" conversation Thursday night but plan to open contract talks in earnest today, hoping to strike a quick deal with advisor Bo McKinnis, who represented Dewon Brazelton, their ill-fated top pick in 2001, along with Ray Casey Fossum. Last year's top college pitcher, Andrew Miller, got a four-year, $5.5-million major-league deal from Detroit, and it's safe to assume Price seeks more.
"It's difficult to project how long it will take, " Friedman said. "I think the important thing to know is that we very much want to get a deal done and so does he."
Price, who has the option of returning for his senior year at Vanderbilt, sounded similarly eager to get started.
"I would love to go and play somewhere rather than sit around at home. The sooner the better for me. But I understand if it takes some time, that's fine, " Price said.
The Rays were cautious to not establish a timetable for Price to reach the majors, allowing that sooner is better as long as he's ready. "We're optimistic that he will get here pretty quickly, " Friedman said.
Price said he just wants to get started.
"I'm going to do anything Tampa Bay wants me to do, " he said. "If they want me to go and throw a couple big-league innings, that's fine. If it takes me five years to get to the big leagues and they think I'm ready after that fifth year, that's fine, too."