ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price had a great 2010, finishing second in the American League Cy Young voting after winning 19 games. But 2012 has been even better for the lefty, raising the question:

Is he in line to win the award this year?

"I just think that this year is a little different with David," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think he's actually pitched better this year than then. Looking at all the different candidates and the consistent body of work that he's [put] out there. ... I definitely believe he's the front runner."

Price's numbers are certainly worthy. His 2.28 ERA is the best in the Majors, ahead of Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto (2.44) and Detroit's Justin Verlander (2.50).

He also has 16 wins, which puts him in a four-way tie at the top of the Majors as of Thursday afternoon. Truth be told, he should have at least a couple more wins under his belt. In two of his last four starts, he went eight innings without allowing a run, but Tampa Bay lost both contests, each 1-0, after the offense provided no run support.

In two other starts -- on July 4 against the Yankees and on May 26 start against the Red Sox -- Price threw seven innings and allowed just a run, but the bullpen couldn't come through in games the Rays eventually lost.

Though he trails five pitchers when it comes to the most strikeouts in the AL (including teammate James Shields), he has a chance to match his career high, 218, having amassed 167 to date.

"The guy is so prepared, and he cares," Maddon said. "Every time he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win. I feel really good about what he's doing, and of course he does. I feel, looking down the road, maintaining the same level that he's performing at, he should win [the award]."

Longoria eager for regular action at third

ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria wants to be at third base every day, but he knows he must bide his time.

Longoria, who came off the disabled list on Aug. 7, played third base on Tuesday for the first time since his return. Until then he had been used exclusively as the designated hitter.

Having Longoria back in the lineup -- anywhere -- has seemed to give the offense a jump-start. Thus the Rays remain cautious about using him in the field too much, because they don't want to risk him re-injuring his left hamstring.

Longoria was back at third on Thursday after being used as the DH on Wednesday. He was removed from Tuesday's game early.

"I tried to plead my case [on Tuesday], to no avail," Longoria said. "I guess that had been the plan from the get-go. I would have liked to go back out. It was only one or two more innings. I had a feeling that my spot was going to come back up."

According to manager Joe Maddon, Longoria will play every other day at third base for the remainder of the homestand.

"Whatever he says," Longoria said. "We haven't really talked one-on-one about it. I know that it's kind of an issue that [the coaches and front office] have been talking about as far as matchups, situations, keeping me fresh and all that. But my legs have felt good. That's the most important thing.

"Whatever they want me to do, I'll do at this point. But at some point in the near future, I'm going to want to go out and play third base every day, because it's much easier to get into the rhythm of the game. It's much easier to stay focused."

Longoria noted that his legs felt better on Tuesday while playing in the field than they did after being the DH on Wednesday "and sitting around in between innings."

"That will be something that's talked about, but whatever their plan is for now, I'm onboard with it," he said.

Longoria said that there are still questions to be answered in regard to balls that he can get to in the field.

"I don't really have questions in my head as far as the health of my leg," he said. "But when you haven't been out there for a while, you've got to answer the questions by doing it. But yeah, I'm ready."

Rays treat American Legion to postgame party

ST. PETERSBURG -- After Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Royals, manager Joe Maddon challenged members of American Legion Post 238 in Safety Harbor, Fla., to meet up. After all, beers, pickled eggs and sausages for members would be available courtesy of Maddon and the team.

"I heard it was a great turnout, and I also heard they were able to collect dues that were in arrears by certain fellows that showed up that hadn't been there in a while," Maddon said.

Maddon himself was unable to attend but plans to stop by the post at some point.

But he may not have been able to find any parking even if he did stop by. The event attracted so many members that people had to park in the yards of neighboring houses.

The Rays are in the middle of their "American Legion Week," with the flag of Post 238 hanging in the front of the clubhouse, and during this homestand, the team is not required to take batting practice.

Three Rays Minor Leaguers suspended

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced on Thursday that three Minor Leaguers in the Rays organization have been suspended following their violations of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The suspended players are second baseman Ryan Brett, pitcher Charles Cononie and pitcher Justin Woodall, all with Class A Bowling Green of the Midwest League.

Each tested positive for methamphetamine and an amphetamine, and each has received a 50-game suspension without pay, effective immediately.