JOE BIDDLE: Midstate hurlers face post-Cy Young hurdles
By Joe Biddle, Sports Columnist
Less than a year ago, Major League pitchers R.A. Dickey and David Price were living the dream.
They were on top of their games, two Middle Tennessee products that would go on to win Cy Young Awards.
What were the odds the two best pitchers in the Major Leagues grew up some 30 miles apart - Dickey in Nashville, Price in Murfreesboro?
They could not have taken more different paths to the mountaintop.
Price was a sure shot to not only make the big leagues after a career at Vanderbilt that found him being named the best player in college baseball, but he would move up the ladder to Tampa Bay at warp speed.
It helped that he was left-handed with a fastball that flirted with 100 on the radar guns. He had developed a nasty slider and a change-up.
Dickey was a study in perseverance. Like Price, the former MBA pitcher was a first-round draft pick. He was a workhorse at Tennessee, often taking the ball in relief, or filling a starting role with three days rest.
Price had all the measurables. Dickey lost six figures when he signed and doctors discovered he had no ulnar ligament in his elbow. That’s the ligament that orthopedic surgeons repair on a procedure called Tommy John surgery.
Dickey bounced around the minor leagues for years. He had a supportive wife, Anne, who stayed positive while raising young children.
Dickey was down to his last chance. He learned how to throw a knuckleball. It was his only ticket to the show.
The New York Mets took a chance on him, and in his second season with them, he became a Cy Young winner.
Price joined Dickey, as he was Tampa Bay’s best pitcher throughout the season and his numbers won him over with American League Cy Young voters.
This season has been nightmarish for both pitchers. Again, what are the odds that would happen? You just don’t lose it overnight, but with Price it has been a slow start and an injury. Dickey was traded to Toronto, an American League team. That meant he had to pitch to designated hitters instead of weak swinging pitchers.
Dickey is 6-8 with a 5.15 ERA in 16 starts with Toronto. He has thrown 99.2 innings, given up 99 hits and allowed 57 earned runs. He has walked 40 batters, struck out 72. He got off to a bad start, and is trying to correct his mechanics.
Price suffered a left triceps strain on May 15 and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Six weeks later, Price has had one rehab start in the minor leagues. Rays want to send him out on another minor league start before deciding where he is.
Before the injury, Price was struggling with a 1-4 start. He had a 5.24 ERA in nine starts. It was quite different from his Cy Young season where he went 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA. He rang up 205 strikeouts, walking 79 batters.
“It’s a new territory for me,’’ Price told MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. “I’ve never had any arm troubles. I missed a start last year, but that was because of my shoulder and that was all done in the weight room and that all went away.’’
Neither pitcher will be in the Cy Young conversation this season. They have to take it one start at a time in hopes of just turning their season around.
Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time Sport Writer of the Year in Tennessee and a 2012 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: 6/27/2013