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Price soaks up All-Star experience from sidelines

Not slated to pitch after starting Sunday, Rays lefty watches AL win, Jeter farewell

MINNEAPOLIS -- He weathered the expected interrogation about where he may be playing come Aug. 1, and for the rest of All-Star week, prized lefty David Price was able to sit back, relax and partake in the fun.

Price didn't play in the All-Star Game, opting out after making his final start of the first half on Sunday. That gave him plenty of time to relax, soak up the experience and spend a couple of stress-free days with the other elite players who comprised the American League All-Star roster.

Price's All-Star experience began with intense questioning by reporters during the traditional media bonanza held every year the day before the big game. Because of his team's position in the standings -- the Rays are 44-53, fourth place in the AL East and 9 1/2 games back heading into the second half -- his name has been bandied about more than perhaps any other as contenders swarm around the lesser clubs, contemplating possible reinforcements for the stretch run.

Price, who pitched eight-plus innings of scoreless ball in his final outing of the first half to improve to 9-7 on the year while dropping his ERA to 3.23, could be a prime target for a couple of teams. But the prize left-hander cautioned to not count his team out in an AL East division that none of the five teams are running away with.

"We've been in much worse positions than we are right now," he said. "We've been in those positions much later in the season. We feel like with 60 or however many more games we have to play, we have a chance to make a comeback. We always focus on the task at hand and just focus on the game that day."

The overall attitude of the team hasn't soured, either. That's partly due to the Rays' unwaveringly upbeat manager Joe Maddon, but it takes more than just a happy skipper to keep a clubhouse humming. The players have to do their part as well, and that's where veteran leaders like Price can really make a difference.

"If we have a bad game, we put the music on and forget about it," Price said. "We come back the next day and we play hard. We do feel like we have a shot, especially with everything that's gone on in the AL East with injuries. Nobody's really stood out for an extended period of time. We do feel like we're in a good position."

Price was introduced with the rest of the AL club during Tuesday's pregame ceremony, despite opting not to play in the game because of his Sunday start. In a touching tribute to the late Don Zimmer, Price -- with the cameras on him and the nation watching -- touched the "Zim" patch that is adorned on the left side of all Rays uniforms this year.

It was a fitting nod to a lifelong baseball man who spent the final years of his life as a senior advisor for the Rays, the only team Price has played for.

Although Price may not finish his career with them, for now, Tampa Bay is the only club he knows. So it's likely he appreciates what it means for a player to spend his entire career with one team, as the soon-to-be-retired Derek Jeter did as a Yankee.

Having a front-row seat for Jeter's All-Star swan song was something Price was looking forward to.

"To me, that was the most special part about coming," Price said. "To be a part of his last All-Star Game. I wasn't an All-Star last year so I wasn't able to experience everything that went on with Mariano [Rivera]. But I watched when he came in, and that was very special. It'll be neat to be on his team for this moment."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.
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