David Price Is the New Joba Chamberlain
It would be hard to jump into the national spotlight faster than David Price did in 2008.
After pitching only 14 innings during the regular season as a September call-up, Price didn't pitch against the White Sox in the ALDS, and faced just four batters in the first six games of the ALCS against Boston.
Then, in a move that would've been inexplicable with someone of lesser talent, Rays manager Joe Maddon really threw Price into the fire, bringing him into the deciding game of the Championship Series with two outs and the bases loaded, up 3-1 in the 8th. That's the part you remember -- Price famously striking out J.D. Drew, then retiring the side in the ninth, earning the save in the clincher.
His path is similar to that of Yankees phenom Joba Chamberlain a year before him, but not a carbon copy. The majority of Chamberlain's success in 2007 came during the regular season, when he allowed just one earned run while striking out 34 in 24 innings. This gave him a more prominent spot on the postseason roster than Price, but October wasn't as kind to him; he allowed the tying run in the eighth inning of Game 2, although Yankee fans will tell you the infallible Joba wasn't to be blamed, but rather the swarming midges that descended upon Jacobs Field that night.
Giving top prospects their first shot in the majors in the bullpen has been a popular strategy for years, and it's especially effective when you have the stuff of these two. Both threw almost exclusively fastballs and sliders in their first year up, although Chamberlain threw a bit harder, averaging 97 mph out of the bullpen.
That's enough when you're pitching in relief, but you won't survive as a starter with just two pitches. In 2008, while making the transition into the starting rotation, Chamberlain began to throw more curveballs, and their frequency will increase as he continues to develop that pitch.
Price's third offering is a changeup, which he threw very sparingly last year. A big part of his success in 2009, and his overall development into a No. 1 starter, will hinge on how effective that pitch is.
Another thing to watch will be Price's workload, as he threw just under 130 innings last season, between the minors, majors, and postseason. The Yankees were very cautious with Chamberlain in 2008, keeping him in the bullpen for two months before gradually transitioning him to the rotation. This worked out very well until he got hurt in early August.
One advantage that the Rays have in this aspect, which the Yankees certainly didn't last year, is incredible pitching depth; they can focus on doing whatever is best for Price, rather than needing him to plug short-term holes.