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With Tigers debut in rearview, Price feels good

Lefty hurls 8 2/3 innings, strikes out 10 Yankees in first start with Detroit

NEW YORK -- All he'd wanted to do was get back on the mound and get this next chapter of his career started.

Normalcy? No chance.

"It was a little weird, absolutely," David Price said.

It was also thrilling, especially for all the people who care about the Detroit Tigers. On Opening Day, no team had higher hopes than this one.

And then Price arrived.

"It's similar to 1998 in Houston, when we got Randy Johnson," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's a similar infusion of energy."

Welcome to baseball's best starting rotation. In the end, it's that simple. See you in October. The Tigers are the first team in history to have the last three Cy Young Award winners in their league. To be able to line up Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Price together creates all kinds of expectations.

And some fun, too.

Game on.

On Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, Ausmus handed the ball to Price for the first time since he was acquired from the Rays at last Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"He really looked exactly like he did in Tampa, except for the Tigers uniform on," Ausmus said. "He was calm. He was methodical. He got outs."

Price said he was helped by pitching against the Yankees, a team he'd started against 23 other times in his career. This was his third start at Yankee Stadium this season. The Yankees have changed since his last game, but at least the surroundings were similar.

On Tuesday, Price pitched 8 2/3 innings, threw a workman-like 112 pitches and allowed three earned runs. He struck out 10, walked none. He turned a tie game over to his bullpen, and the Tigers won it, 4-3, in the 12th inning thanks to catcher Alex Avila's eighth home run.

This was a big day for Avila, too. He prides himself on allowing his pitchers to get into a rhythm and to trust his pitch selection. He sat down with Price before the game and told him that there was no way they were going to be completely comfortable with one another in this first game.

"I told him, 'I don't know you just yet. If I put something down, don't be afraid to shake. We'll go with what you feel,'" Avila said. "Today, I thought he did a great job."

Avila caught all of Price's bullpen warmup session before the game to get more accustomed to how the ball comes out of his hand.

While there's still so much to learn, October is almost two months away. OK, one step at a time.

"The next step is figuring out how he likes to attack hitters," Avila said. "I go through video of his previous starts and things like that. But it's always a little different in the game. It's knowing how he likes to attack hitters. What are his go-to pitches in certain situations? At times during this game, there were times I wasn't sure."

Avila saw enough to be impressed.

"He's got [pitches] that move both directions," Avila said. "Great fastball. Great secondary pitches. There's a lot to worry about as a hitter."

There was a moment in the bottom of the second inning that summed up why Price is so good. In an at-bat against Yankees right fielder Martin Prado, Price threw 10 pitches. He threw four two-seam fastballs between 94 and 96 mph. He threw a four-seamer at 96 mph. He threw three changeups as well. And a cutter. And a curveball.

He struck out Prado on a 96-mph fastball, ending an at-bat that showed both players at their best.

"I threw him everything I had," Price said. "I was happy to end that at-bat with an out. He's definitely a good hitter. He's not an eight-hole guy, that's for sure."

There'll be other small milestones for Price as he settles into life with his new team. One of those is a scheduled start against his old team later this month.

In the end, though, when Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski pulled off the trade, it was with an eye toward playing deep into October.

For Price, it's about one day at a time.

"I feel a lot better about everything right now, helping these guys win a game," Price said. "It probably helped facing a team I've faced multiple times. But it definitely felt weird wearing a Tigers uniform for the first time. It feels good it's over."

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
Read More: Detroit Tigers, David Price