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03/11/08 8:07 PM ET

Rays send Price to Minors camp

Top pick of '07 Draft cut, but not without opening eyes

ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price didn't know it at the time, but he was making his final spring appearance for the Rays on Tuesday in Fort Myers. Once the team bus returned to St. Petersburg, Price was given the news he had been optioned to the Minor Leagues along with outfielder Justin Ruggiano and right-hander Jae Kuk Ryu.

Price added a scoreless inning against the Twins on Tuesday to the one he put up on Saturday against the Yankees, finishing his spring with a 0.00 ERA while retiring six of the seven hitters he faced, striking out three and hitting one.

Price, 22, was chosen by the Rays first overall in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt University. No doubt the Rays see him making a quick ascent to the Major Leagues, but for now they want him to go down to Minor League camp where he can stretch out his innings before he begins to test how fast a prospect can move through the Rays' farm system.

"Yeah, I'm ready to go out there and get prepared for being in some games," Price said. "It's something I'm definitely looking forward to. I'm ready to get back down there and get with the guys I met at [the Instructional League in the fall]."

Price's experience this spring confirmed what he already felt.

"I know I belong," he said. "There's no doubt about that. And there's no doubt about that in that clubhouse. [But] they have a process for me in mind and they're going to stick to it."

Price opened eyes, like Don Zimmer's, who said after watching him pitch Saturday that he was "thrilled" to watch him strike out the side while hitting 99 mph with his fastball. In addition, Zimmer was impressed by the fact all of Price's pitches were down in the strike zone.

"To me, where are you going to see anything better the whole spring than that one inning?" Zimmer said. "I don't care if you're 17 years old or if you're 77 years old -- that was thrilling. Strike, strike, strike, strike, and low, and breaking balls. It's easy to say they didn't have their regular lineup in there. That, to me, has got nothing to do with it. It's where he was throwing it."

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Rays manager Joe Maddon told Price to hurry back after breaking the news to the left-handed phenom, who said the Rays have not told him at what level they intend to start his professional career.

Ruggiano, 25, appeared in nine games for the Rays this spring. Last year with Triple-A Durham he hit .309 (149-482) with 20 home runs and 26 stolen bases before earning a promotion to the Major Leagues, where he played in seven games.

Ryu, 24, made two outings for the Rays this spring, totaling a 3.00 ERA over three innings. He broke spring camp with the Rays in 2007 before returning to Durham, where he went 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA in 14 appearances, all starts.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.