Comforts of home ease Price's transition

Following year of change, left-hander could be top pitcher on free-agent market

Comforts of home ease Price's transition

LAKELAND, Fla. -- David Price wakes up each morning these days in the same Tampa condo he called home during his time with the Rays. That's a very nice perk of Spring Training with the Tigers, compared with training in Port Charlotte with the Rays.

"I didn't know if I was going to get any more use out of that thing," Price said of his real estate.

He gets up early in the morning, gets in his car, and heads to the ballpark. Instead of going west toward St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field, he turns east and heads up Interstate 4 toward Joker Marchant Stadium.

Price: Top Prospect to Cy Young

He is reverse commuting from Tampa and away from his Rays days. Any sense of awkwardness, however, is over as far as he's concerned.

"It's just a different drive, I guess," he said. "It's probably the same distance. It didn't feel any different."

After being catapulted into the Tigers rotation and the American League Central race last July, Price has found his comfort level. After throwing his first official bullpen session of his first Spring Training as a Tiger, he was headed off for an afternoon round of golf with fellow AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. They've played a couple of times already, and they already have another round scheduled for Sunday.

Like one of those hard-hit comebackers Omar Vizquel hit at him during defensive drills, Price deftly deflected the question of who's the better golfer.

"Ah, we both have our days, and we can have our bad days," Price said. "I feel like my range is probably 75 to 95 right now. Hopefully, today's a good day."

He wasn't hitting 95 mph on the mound, not even close, but he shouldn't be -- not this early in camp, maybe not at all before Opening Day. He doesn't necessarily want to get into game adrenaline until the games count. Like his game goal of retiring batters in three pitches or fewer, he is a study in energy efficiency in Spring Training.

While Verlander bantered with catcher Alex Avila a few mounds over, Price's session with bullpen catcher Jeff Kunkel and backup catcher Bryan Holaday was relatively quiet. He'd deliver the ball, get it back, then throw again, until he was done.

"I only watched Price for a little bit," manager Brad Ausmus said. "David's pretty good at self-monitoring. He certainly looked strong."

Price does not like to ice his arm, preferring to get the blood flowing and cycle through any soreness as quickly as possible. It's a throwback to the days when another great Tigers lefty, Mickey Lolich, used to put his arm under a hot shower after an outing.

"Ice kills, blood heals," he said.

It's the same setup he has used to prepare for other seasons. It's just in a different spot, just as it could be next spring. His reverse commute for the next six weeks is a time warp of sorts, taking him from his past home to his present camp to prepare for a contract year that could set him up for future fortunes somewhere as the top free agent on next winter's market.

The Tigers, understandably, would like to keep him heading to Lakeland every spring. Asked if there have been any contract talks, however, Price said, "Not that I know of."

Even in that, Price is efficient. His agent will update him with news, but nothing more.

"If he has something to tell me, he'll definitely give me a buzz," he said. "But other than that, he leaves me alone."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.