The Yankees probably shouldn't take this personally, but David Price wouldn't be too thrilled if the Rays dealt him to the Bronx -- or any other location in the American League East, for that matter.
"I would hope not,'' Price said before Monday night's game at Yankee Stadium when asked if he thinks the Rays would move him to a team within the same division. "Tampa is the last team I would want to face, to pitch against. Facing friends is the worst.''
The 28-year-old lefty and former Cy Young Award winner, who is scheduled to start against the Yankees on Tuesday night, is perceived as a potential prize acquisition but said he expects to be with the Rays after July 31, MLB's non-waiver trade deadline.
Count him as one of the few.
All signs point to Price's seven-year career with the Rays coming to an end soon. So much so that it is something Price said he has been prepared for since last season.
"I don't want it to happen, but it's something I've definitely thought about,'' he said. "It's been in the back of my mind, if not the front of my mind at times, and I prepared myself for it. I still don't know the feelings or emotions that I would feel if it did happen, but it's part of the business and I completely get that.''
In February, Price told reporters he wouldn't want to play for the Yankees because of their facial hair policy. Later that week, he retracted the comment and called the Yankees "probably the best organization in all of sports.''
Wearing his customary full beard Monday, Price acknowledged he would have to shave if he were traded to the Yankees.
"As much as I wouldn't want to, I would follow team rules,'' Price said. "I'm not that guy.''
Price carries a 6-7 record, a 3.63 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP into his start against the Yankees. He leads baseball in strikeouts (144) and has walked only 14 batters in 124 innings. He has fanned at least 10 batters in five straight starts. Price's problem this season has been his inability to keep the ball in the park: He has allowed 17 homers in 17 starts.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he is impressed with how successful Price has been amid the swirling rumors.
"His stuff is as good as it's been, and I'm talking about everything: fastball, command, curveball, changeup and cutter,'' Maddon said. "It's just a combination of everything that's been as good as it's ever been.''
Trading Price is a sensible option for the Rays, who entered Monday night's game with a 35-49 record and were 10 games behind first-place Toronto in the AL East despite playing better of late. The expectation is that Price would reel in a nice package of prospects for the small-market team. He's an intriguing option for contending teams because he won't be a free agent until after the 2015 season.
Price understands all of that, but . . .
"It would be strange to be in any other uniform other than the Rays right now,'' Price said. "It would be weird to wear any other uniform, but it probably would be a little weirder to wear one in the AL East. That would be a little bit different.''
After Monday night, the Rays have 40 games left against division opponents. The rumors will remain constant, Price said, but if the Rays continue to play well and make up ground in the standings, he thinks it could decrease the chance of a trade.
"There are going to be stories written and speculation no matter what,'' Price said. "But if we continue to play good baseball the way that we have and continue to win, we feel like we have a shot. I think that would lessen my chances of getting traded.''