Rays-Yankees game postponed by rainJun 5, 2009 - 11:52 PM By MIKE FITZPATRICK AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK(AP) -- Just like most everyone else in baseball, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon is intrigued by the attractive pitching matchup on tap at Yankee Stadium: David Price vs. CC Sabathia.
It will have to wait at least one more day.
Friday night's scheduled game between the Rays and New York Yankees was postponed because of rain, pushing back Price and Sabathia to Saturday afternoon.
It will be the fourth big league start for Price, drafted No. 1 overall by Tampa Bay in 2007. Still, Maddon is sure his 23-year-old lefty is ready for the challenge of squaring off against Sabathia on the New York stage.
"It's just the first step, but I'm really eager to see it," Maddon said. "I know that David's going to walk out on the mound in the first inning, he's going to be in control of his emotions. He definitely believes he belongs here, and he has every intention of winning the game."
The 28-year-old Sabathia is 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA in the first season of a $161 million, seven-year contract with the Yankees. After a slow start he's been on a roll lately, going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his past five outings. He is 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 11 career starts against Tampa Bay.
Already an established No. 1, Sabathia is well aware that his next opponent is considered a future ace.
"I knew that he was pitching today and people were going to make a big fuss out of it. But I'm not hitting off of him, so I'm more worried about their lineup," Sabathia said.
Price made his major league debut out of the bullpen at the old Yankee Stadium last September and played a key relief role in Tampa Bay's stunning run to the AL pennant.
This year, he was called up May 25 from Triple-A Durham. He earned his first regular-season win in the majors on Saturday, striking out 11 in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-2 victory over Minnesota.
Price said he's never met Sabathia but he admires the big lefty, well aware of everything they have in common as two of the few black pitchers in the big leagues.
"I look up to the guy. I mean, he's handled himself the right way on and off the field," Price said. "I know what he does for his camps out in California, where he gets the little kids together and lets them play baseball in the inner cities. I mean, that's huge. That's what we need right now. I don't think there's a better role model than him."
But that doesn't mean Price is trying to emulate Sabathia on the mound.
"I want to be better, to be honest," Price said. "I don't want to sell myself short and I don't want to try and be like anybody else. I'm my own person. Nothing against CC. I mean, if I have his career - phenomenal. If not, I want to be better. That's the way I look at it. I don't want to settle for however many wins he has or however many wins he's going to have. I want to have more."
That attitude is one reason the Rays are so high on Price.
"The way he handles all this is really fun to watch. He never, ever, ever, never makes an excuse," Maddon said.
No makeup date for the rainout was announced, but it shouldn't be too difficult to find one. After this weekend's series, the Rays return to Yankee Stadium from Sept. 7-9 - and the teams have a common off day Sept. 10.
Another possibility is a day-night doubleheader on Labor Day, Sept. 7.
Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria hopes to return to the lineup Saturday. He came out of Tuesday's game with tightness in his left hamstring.
Longoria tested his leg in workouts Friday and said he felt good.
The Rays simply pushed back their starters for the rest of the series, so Matt Garza is now scheduled to pitch Sunday and Andy Sonnanstine on Monday night.
The Yankees, however, flip-flopped A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte in the rotation. Joba Chamberlain will start Sunday, Pettitte on Monday and Burnett will go Tuesday night at Boston in the opener of a three-game series.
New York manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that one reason for the switch is Burnett's history of success against the Red Sox.
"We just like the way our rotation sets up a little bit better this way and the teams that we're facing. And it doesn't disrupt everyone," Girardi said.
Burnett was suspended six games Thursday for throwing high-and-tight to Texas' Nelson Cruz earlier this week, but the right-hander appealed the penalty and can continue to pitch until a hearing is held.
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