By Bob Elliott
St. PETERSBURG, Fla. _ The dandelions of Canadian journalism approached David Price at his locker inside Tropicana Field Friday afternoon.
Price had finished throwing a 40-pitch simulated game.
“Hey, it’s a 162-game season, not 159,” said reliever Mark Lowe, pulling out a needle, from a nearby couch.
Price replied “yeah, they say I’m sitting on my numbers.”
“I don’t blame you for not pitching,” continued Lowe, “I was afraid to pitch against my old team too when I switched teams.”
Price, who has not pitched since last Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rogers Centre, will be the Game 1 starter when the best-of-five American League Division Series begins at Rogers Centre Thursday night.
He’ll be pitching on 11 days rest.
He says he’s healthy, is in a good place mentally and will throw another simulated game in “two or three days.” When he starts Game 1 he will be the first to start a post-season game on 11 days rest since Hall of Famer Red Ruffing in the 1939 World Series for the New York Yankees.
Ruffing pitched a complete-game, 2-1 win as the Yanks beat the Cincinnati Reds on their way to a four-game sweep.
“Could I have pitched Saturday (against the Rays)? Sure, but what if I’d done poorly and my confidence would have been shot for Game 1,” said Price. “I’m in a good place right now,”
Price is quite unlike any former Cy Young award winner who entered the Blue Jays clubhouse.
Some how we could not see Roger Clemens sitting playing cribbage for over an hour as Price did the other night in Baltimore with Matt Hague, who spent most of the season in triple-A Buffalo.
Or Roy Halladay yucking it up playing NHL 2016 video? The way Price often does with Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro and Lowe? No chance, Halladay would have spent his free time working out.
We couldn’t see Pat Hentgen answering as Price did when asked who was the best at cribbage?
“Me,” said Price. “Josh Donaldson and Hague are good too.”
Best at NHL 2016?
“Me and Martin,” Price said. “I’ll tell you who isn’t very good: Brett (Pass the Sticks) Cecil. Every time you lose you have to pass the sticks. Look, the game just ended ... pass the sticks Cecil.”
Earlier Price walked into manager John Gibbons’ office and asked if Josh Thole (standing behind him) could be added to the playoff roster. Thole had caught Price during the simulated game and Thole
“He got me unlocked Skip, I really need Tho-OLL,” Price said mispronouncing the catcher’s name on purpose.
The lefty acquired from the Detroit Tigers before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, isn’t worried about the layoff from facing hitters with line drives on their minds.
“I’m completely fine with it, long as the mound is still going to be 60 feet, six inches,” Price said. “My greatest fear in the offseason is that I’ll forget how to throw. In 11 days, that’s not going to happen. I threw a live BP and it went really well. I’ll be ready.
“At this point, this is probably the best I have felt, the best I’ve felt for an entire season in my big league career. I did not expect to feel this as good now as I did in spring training and through the course of this season after the workload I had last year.”
Gibbons said giving Price the extra rest was a smart decision.
“It’s a pretty good workload, we could have pitched him a couple of innings and bagged it, but hopefully he makes a few starts from here on out,” Gibbons said. “He’s not concerned about it. Hell, we saw Marcus Stroman make two abbreviated minor league starts and look what he’s doing.”
Stoman was on 159 days rest from his torn ACL at Dunedin to his 2015 debut at Yankee Stadium.
“I basically told (Price), I’d rather you not (pitch). He’s at 215 innings? In my mind, I thought we’d really like to see him win the Cy Young award. But he said, ‘I don’t care about that.’ That’s really what it came down to. He’s more concerned about this, which showed me something too.
Yep, the 2015 Blue Jays, and the 1939 Yankees, who went 106-45.
“These guys are telling me I’m sitting on my numbers, that’s me. Sittin’ on my numbers. I don’t want to pitch cause I don’t want to make an error,” said Price, who has made one error in 39 chances and had his best fielding game against the Chicago White Sox as a Detroit Tiger.
“I want to win a gold glove. You should have seen those plays I made on bunts to throw out Adam Eaton and Emilio Bonifaccio.”
And come Thursday Price becomes the first Jay to start a game since Dave Stewart started Game 6 in 1993.