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09/14/08 7:04 PM EST

Price strong in MLB debut vs. Yanks

Rays' left-handed prospect whiffs four in 5 1/3 innings of work

NEW YORK -- David Price finally left the showroom and the Rays' shiny new Cadillac showed Tampa Bay fans what all the fuss has been about when made his Major League debut in the third inning of Sunday's game against the Yankees.

"It was fun, a lot of fun," Price said. "Pitching [at Yankee Stadium] is definitely special."

Price pitched well, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings. The Rays' top prospect joined the club Saturday morning after the Triple-A Durham Bulls were eliminated from the International League playoffs Friday night.

Price retired Xavier Nady on a groundout to third on the first pitch he threw before getting Robinson Cano on a flyout to left field. He finished the inning by striking out Ivan Rodriguez, who swung and missed at a 96-mph fastball.

Price, 23, attended Vanderbilt University and was the top overall pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Over the summer, he went 11-0 in his first 15 professional starts with Class A Vero Beach and Double-A Montgomery before losing in his first start at Durham. He was named the 2008 Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today.

Edwin Jackson started for the Rays on Sunday and struggled, prompting Rays manager Joe Maddon to get Price up in the bullpen.

"I think my first 20 pitches in the 'pen, I didn't throw a strike," Price said. "So I thought it was going to be a rough day after that. But I settled down pretty good -- started breathing better out there, but that first inning was rough.

"When I was warming up for my second inning, I felt good. I wasn't shaking anymore. I felt like I was about to fall off the mound in that first inning. But after that, I felt fine -- like I was pitching back at Vanderbilt, back at my high school. It felt good to be out there, I wasn't nervous anymore, and I felt like I belonged out there."

Price retired the first six batters he faced before Derek Jeter hit a solo home run off him leading off the fifth.

"He used to be my favorite player," said Price with a chuckle. "I don't know anymore."

Jeter spoke highly of Price afterward.

"Everyone is well aware of how well he's pitched throughout the course of this season," Jeter said. "He throws 97, 98 with a good slider. You're interested, obviously, because you hear so much about him.

"But any time you're facing someone that's throwing 97 or 98 with a slider and changeup and has a pretty good idea of what he's doing out there, I don't think too many people are rushing to go hit against him. He threw the ball extremely well. I'm sure he was probably a little bit nervous, but it didn't show. He's got a very bright future."

Price said he really didn't see that big of a difference pitching in the Major Leagues from where he spent the summer.

"I mean, obviously, the hitters up here are, hands down, better hitters than any other hitters I've faced in my entire life, but I still competed," Price said. "That's all you can do out there, and I gave us a chance to win."

For now, there are no plans to put Price into the starting rotation, though he will likely be used as a starter in Baltimore on Sept. 23, when the Rays play a doubleheader.

"Obviously, he's going to be one of our starters in the future, and we feel he's one of our cornerstone pitchers," Maddon said. "But for now, I think it's just wise to just evaluate what we saw today and know that it was positive -- see what you've got for the next week or so, knowing that you have this in your back pocket, and then see how you want to use [him]."

On Sunday, Price just sounded happy to be in the Major Leagues and not too concerned if he starts or pitches out of the bullpen.

"I'll just go back out there in the 'pen, and I hope I get the ball back in another couple of days," he said.

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