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05/13/08 7:18 PM ET

Price close to returning to action

Prospect did not begin season at Class A due to elbow soreness

ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price is close to resuming his season.

The Rays prospect did not begin the season with Class A Vero Beach as expected due to left elbow soreness and has been on a rehab assignment in St. Petersburg. He threw Monday, and according to Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the club expects Price to throw five innings "later in the week" in an extended Spring Training game.

"And from there, we'll monitor [the situation]," Friedman said. "But my best guess now is that we'll be sending him out [likely to Class A Vero Beach after the five-inning stint]."

Price, 22, was chosen by the Rays first overall in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt University and was signed to a deal worth $11.25 million late last summer. The stylish left-hander impressed everyone throughout Spring Training. After experiencing some tightness in his left shoulder early in camp, he pitched in two games, finishing his spring with a 0.00 ERA while retiring six of the seven hitters he faced, striking out three and hitting one. In the process, his fastball tipped 99 mph on several occasions.

Friedman has not talked to Price lately, but he said those who have conveyed the fact the lefty is "champing at the bit" to pitch.

"He's a competitor and he's anxious to get out there and compete and help his team win," Friedman said. "He'll be out there, I think, in short time. We're anxious to get him going."

Though the Rays never set a timetable for Price's progression this summer, others did. And given Price's polish, many felt he might join the team as early as midseason. Friedman was asked if Price's injury would delay his arrival to Tropicana Field.

"I wouldn't say that," Friedman said. "Also, we've never talked about a timeline either. For us, just let him get out there and pitch. And let him go about making a start every five days. Making the little adjustments he needs to make. We'll go from there."

The Rays entered Tuesday night's action in second place in the American League East, a half-game behind the Red Sox. Would the Rays accelerate Price's timeline if they remain in contention? Friedman chose not to speculate.

"Look, David Price's development is the key," Friedman said. "When he's ready, he'll get here. We're not trying to put any pressure on him to get here by the end of this summer or the beginning of next year. Whenever it does happen, it will happen. And we are anxious to get him out there. He's extremely talented and he's going to help us win a lot of games in the near future."

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