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Henry's Chopping Block


August 30, 2009 4:34 PM

It's All About Price with Rays

By MIKE HENRY



It might have been David Price's boldest statement in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform since saving the seventh game of the 2008 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.


Price's performance in Saturday's 3-1 victory at Detroit -- five hits, four strikeouts and one walk in 7 1/3 innings -- came a day after the trade of his close friend, fellow left-hander Scott Kazmir, to the Angels for three minor-league prospects.


For Rays fans, it's good to know Price was able to shelve his disappointment about Kazmir in time to handcuff the AL Central leaders. The victory represented a career milestone for Price -- his first road victory.


He did it by relying primarily on his fastball. Price (7-6, 4.63 ERA) has been plagued all season by control problems, but his command put the Tigers on the defensive.


Rays fans seem split about losing Kazmir, who had become the face of the franchise in 2007 by leading the AL with 239 strikeouts. He never got untracked this season because of minor injuries and mechanical problems, although he showed enough in recent starts to become attractive to the Angels.


Kazmir is in the first season of a three-year, $28.5-million deal, and if anything, the trade proved the Rays are nowhere near ready to compete financially with AL East rivals New York and Boston (anybody else remember when $63 million could have satisfied 25 guys?).


By slicing $20 million owed to Kazmir in 2010 and 2011 from its payroll, Tampa Bay is positioned to pursue Carl Crawford wholeheartedly when the All-Star left-fielder's contract runs out after next season.

Crawford is entering the prime of his career, plays great defense, is probably the best base-runner in baseball and hits for average and decent power. He's basically the Lou Brock of his era, and oldtimers remember what Brock meant to the Cardinals of the 1960s.

Although he should help the Angels, Kazmir was nowhere near Bob Gibson stature. He had fallen to something less than the Ray Washburn category. Rays management decided it couldn't wait any longer to get back maximum value.

By stepping up Saturday, David Price showed the Rays' gamble on the future might not have ruled out their chances getting to the playoffs this season as a wild card. And it showed Price understands there is no room for sentiment in a major league dugout, even when a friend is sent packing.

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