In the minutes after the Tampa Bay Rays' clubhouse opened for the first time, David Price kept smiling. About four months ago, the ace left-hander was written off among some -- and even himself -- as soon-to-be gone, bound to be traded, destined to join Matt Garza and James Shields as skilled arms dealt in recent years for value in the Rays' ongoing quest to stay competitive in the American League East. But ''continuity'' was a popular word Friday at Charlotte Sports Park, and Price was a large reason why. After all the uncertainty, the Seattle Mariners buzz and Masahiro Tanaka's signing -- after all the predictions that went bust before the sun rose on another pitchers' and catchers' report day here -- the Rays began to remake themselves. And the key parts look much like they did last year. ''I'm definitely the happiest person in Port Charlotte,'' Price said. Price is one component of the chemistry that could make this Tampa Bay team special. Spring training is a time for hopes and big dreams, both as certain as the need for sunblock throughout southwest Florida this time of year. Still, those visions aren't misplaced with these Rays. This is a different squad than many, in the hours after the Boston Red Sox celebrated at Tropicana Field last October to close the ALDS, thought would arrive in these weeks. The core looks sound and much the same. Price is back. So is James Loney. Closer Grant Balfour found a landing spot after a failed physical with the Baltimore Orioles. Ryan Hanigan was gained in a trade to offer a boost at catcher. Pair those developments with guarantees like Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers, Yunel Escobar, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore, and itâs not out of the question for the Rays to ''eat last'' in October like manager Joe Maddon wants them to do.
Continuity could reap rewards for Rays in 2014
Fox Sports Florida | Feb 14