Rays send lefty Price to minors

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- American League Championship Series star David Price was optioned by the Tampa Bay Rays to Triple-A Durham on Wednesday.

"We have obviously spent a lot of time talking about this," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "When we came into camp, we came in with an open mind, knowing full well that there were certain developmental issues that we wanted him to focus on and also the workload. And just the increase and how we're going to monitor that."

The No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, Price, a left-hander, was called up last season and earned his first big league win and save -- in Game 7 -- in the ALCS.

The 23-year-old Price pitched 139 1/3 innings between the minors and the Rays in 2008. Tampa wants to ensure he doesn't exceed that total by more than 20 percent this season. By starting Price at Durham, the Rays can monitor his innings and pitch count.

"We had a lot of conversations about ways to get creative," Friedman said, "and went through it for the last two or three weeks at length and ultimately decided that all things considered that this was the right move for David and in turn the organization."

Friedman expects Price to rejoin the club later in the season to help the Rays make a playoff push.

"David will help us win games in 2009," Friedman said

Price wasn't happy with the news, but wasn't surprised.

"No. I knew it was coming," Price said. "It's part of it."

He disputed the organization's claim that his changeup needs more work. Price felt he displayed a major league changeup during 8 1/3 inning he threw over three appearances this spring.

"Absolutely," he said. "I think that's a non-issue. That was way better than my slider, so I don't think that's an issue."

In other news, the Rays optioned outfield Justin Ruggiano, infielders Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac and catcher John Jaso to Durham. Friedman said Ruggiano could be added to the Opening Day roster to replace center fielder B.J. Upton, who is expected to start the season on the disabled list while he works his way back from offseason surgery on his left shoulder.