David Price throws simulated game

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay ace David Price threw to a most surprising hitter in his latest workout -- Kansas City pitcher James Shields.

Price took another step toward rejoining the Tampa Bay rotation, working Thursday in his first simulated game since being sidelined May 16 because of a strained left triceps. The AL Cy Young Award winner never had before been on the disabled list.

Price threw 54 pitches over three innings before the Rays played Kansas City on Thursday night. He got a good laugh when he took the mound to warm up and saw Shields, his former teammate, standing in the batter's box.

Shields returned to Tropicana Field for the first time this season since being traded in the winter to the Royals. He watched five pitches by Price go by before stepping out.

Price is expected to start a minor league rehab assignment next week and could return to the majors in late June or early July.

"I felt great," Price said. "I'm kind of getting the results that I'm expecting out there right now. It's definitely good to go out there and feel as good as I am right now. I guess it's a sigh of relief."

Price struggled this year before getting hurt, going 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA after going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA in 2012.

"He's actually, I think, exceeding expectations a little bit," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's looking really good."

Maddon was also pleased to see Shields but was grateful his club would not have to face him this series.

The 31-year-old right-hander pitched seven innings against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday in a game the Royals went on to win, 3-2, in 10 innings.

"It is strange seeing him in that different blue (uniform) over there," Maddon said. "I told him, just enjoy your four days here. You pitched yesterday, so enjoy the family, enjoy the vacation here at home."

The Rays played a video tribute on the scoreboard to Shields before the bottom of the second inning. He got a standing ovation. He tipped his cap and waved to the crowd from the front of the third base dugout.

"It is a little weird, just seeing all the guys again," said Shields, who spent half of his 12 years in the Tampa Bay organization at the major league level.

Shields left Tampa Bay leading the franchise with 217 starts, 19 complete games, eight shutouts and 1,250 strikeouts. He won 14 games for the Rays in 2008, when they won their only pennant.

"Going to the World Series and winning the first playoff game in Rays history was probably my best memory here," he said. "From where we came in '07 and to do what we did in 2008 was very special."

Shields has tried to bring those winning ways to the Royals, and it appears to be working. Kansas City leads the league with a 3.45 ERA, and had given up three or fewer runs in 11 straight games heading into Thursday night's game against the Rays.

"We've got a good staff over here. Our starting five is as consistent as you're going to get," Shields said. "Our bullpen, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the best bullpens in the league."

While Shields hasn't won since beating the Rays in Kansas City on April 30, he has compiled a 2.64 ERA in his eight starts since then.

"I tried to bring my experience of winning and of what we did over here in the last five years in Tampa, and I see a lot of similarities to the two teams," he added. "Once everyone learns how to be consistent, which is what we're getting right now, I think we're going to win a lot of ballgames and turn this organization around."