Monday, May 11, 2009

Price has new pitch, searching for past success

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- A dozen baseballs sit before David Price, who takes time to sign every one while his Durham teammates swirl past in a crowded clubhouse.

Seven months removed from pitching in the major-league playoffs, Price admits he’s struggling with the Triple-A Bulls, hopes it doesn’t last much longer and isn’t worried that it will.

“I’m not very good right now,” Price said. “That’s all right. Pitchers go through that stuff.”

Price, one of the top prospects in baseball, had a meteoric rise through the Tampa Bay system last year, including a nine-start stop with the Biscuits. But now he’s scuffling back in the minors.

Price admitted in spring training that he wasn’t sure how he’d react in the low-intensity minors after experiencing the high-pressure playoffs. It’s still a concern.

“That’s tough, but that’s part of it,” Price said. “I have to be able to adjust. That’s something I’m still working on.”

Price is just 1-4 with a 4.74 ERA in six starts and his control hasn’t helped him while he’s also muzzled with a strict pitch count.

Price has 16 walks and 21 strikeouts to his credit in 24 2/3 innings. Alarmingly, his last start, in which he threw a season-high 79 pitches, lasted four innings and included five walks and no strikeouts.

“Mr. Price is going through the growing pains every young pitcher goes through,” Bulls pitching coach Xavier Hernandez said. “Just because he was the No. 1 pick doesn’t exempt him from struggling.

“How he responds to these difficulties will define him as a pitcher.”

Price admits his slider has been “bad,” he said, because “I haven’t thrown it enough.” He’s also been working on a new pitch, a spike curveball that may or may not be successful.

Price is trying it in the minors to see if it can be a quality major-league pitch.

“We’ll see if it’s a feasible pitch for him,” Hernandez said. “The only way to find out is to throw it in game situations.”