It's unusual for an opening day starter to have his final outing of spring training come against the first opponent of the season. David Price, however, is not a typical pitcher.
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner breezed through four scoreless innings Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles tied 4-4 in a game called after 10 innings.
Price, who will face the Orioles at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, allowed just a second-inning single to J.J. Hardy and a fourth-inning walk to Matt Wieters. The left-hander struck out three, throwing 34 strikes in 51 pitches.
"I got a lot of early contact," Price said. "That's what you want to do if you want to go deep into the ballgame."
Desmond Jennings had four hits and Evan Longoria drove in two runs with a first-inning single and a sixth-inning home run for Tampa Bay.
Rays manager Joe Maddon let Price face the Orioles because two of his turns this spring fell on off days, so he pitched in minor league games.
"He had to pitch against less than major league hitters," Maddon said.
Price pitched as well Thursday as Maddon could have hoped. Only five Baltimore batters saw Price a second time.
"I don't know there's a wonderful advantage gained from seeing him one time," Maddon said. "He needs to pitch against a major league lineup and pitching tonight is not a bad thing."
Price acknowledged that the Orioles might see a different pitcher on Tuesday.
"I feel like I threw some pitches tonight that I might not have thrown in a real game situation. I was able to get outs. It's encouraging. You do pitch them a little bit different because you don't want to throw it the same way you're going to throw in five days," he said.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter deliberately kept his starters away from AL East opponents in the last few weeks of spring training. Instead of starting Jason Hammel, who will oppose Price next week, minor league pitcher Jesse Beal was brought in to start.
Maddon isn't a fan of playing division opponents at the end of spring training.
"I'd rather not play against them, so he could work on things," Maddon said. "You try to shy away from teams that you're going to play often in our division. That's more important to me than David pitching four innings tonight."
Showalter said his team isn't nervous about facing Price in a few days.
"Guys are just trying to tune up, getting ready to start the season, and he was pitching," Showalter said.
In 17 Grapefruit League innings, Price allowed four earned runs and 20 hits. He struck out 20 and walked four.
"It was good to lead up to the next few days. My body feels great. It all feels ready for April 2," he said.
NOTES: The Rays have picked their fifth starter, and Maddon said he would announce it on Friday. The choice was between RHPs Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann. Maddon said the pitcher who is not chosen to start will go to the bullpen. "This has been a tough one, man. They've both been outstanding," Maddon said. ... The Orioles placed RHP Chris Tillman on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left abdominal muscle. The move is retroactive to March 22, allowing Tillman to pitch in the season's fifth game on April 6. ... Baltimore reassigned OF Trayvon Robinson to minor league camp. ... RHP Jair Jurrjens went for X-rays on his ribs, and they were negative. Jurrjens was hit in the second inning of Wednesday night's game. ... Tampa Bay faces Detroit in Lakeland on Friday. RHP Jeremy Hellickson pitches against RHP Max Scherzer.