Rays left-hander David Price has been through the juggernaut of the American League East to begin the season, having his first three starts come against the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays.

Yet, he'll get a dose of the AL West on Tuesday, when the Rays open up a three-game series against the Angels at Tropicana Field.

"That's what it's about," Price said of the tough competition. "If you can get through this and put some good outings together, it's good for your confidence and you can get stuff going."

Price picked up the win in his last start on Wednesday against Toronto, giving up two runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings of work to improve to 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA.

While Price has found it tough to get into a groove so far this season, he has been able to mix his pitches well and have good fastball command.

He'll need that against a potent Angels lineup that still hasn't hit its stride. Already having faced the likes of Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson and David Ortiz, Price will face Albert Pujols for the first time in his career.

"If you can go out there and have a good outing, and dominate a team, especially a team that we're going to be facing [a lot, as] in the Angels, or Texas, or the Yankees or Red Sox. It does a lot for your confidence," said Price.

The lefty will be up against Angels right-hander Ervin Santana, who is still searching for his first win of the season.

Santana gave up three early runs to the A's on Wednesday, but settled down after that, allowing only one more run in seven innings of work. However, Santana got no run support and took his third straight loss to open the season.

"I think he's right that it's fastball command. With Ervin, it's not that big of an adjustment to find it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times, it's all connected with your delivery. At times there's going to be issues with trying to get the ball where you want to.

"His stuff is good. At times he gets away with a little bit of command issues if he's not locating exactly where he wants to because he has such a fastball/breaking ball combination."

Angels: Pujols gets first crack at DH
Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave Albert Pujols "a half day off" on Sunday against the Orioles by slotting him as the designated hitter for the first time this season.

"Just give him a day to get him off his feet," Scioscia said. "We'll be off tomorrow and then get down to Tampa. I think it's something where we want him swinging the bat 162 games."

• Even with an off-day on Monday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it won't affect the Angels' pitching rotation.

Scioscia opted to skip No. 5 starter Jerome Williams' first start because of an off-day earlier in the season, but said on Sunday that it makes more sense now to give his pitchers an extra day of rest rather than skipping Williams again.

"Jerome pitched very well, and we want to keep him in the flow," said Scioscia.

Rays: Joyce on hot streak
Matt Joyce has continued to impress the first month of the season, especially as of late.

In his last five games, he's hit three home runs, two doubles and has three RBIs, while also scoring eight runs. He's hit safely in eight of his last nine game with an average of .375 during that span.

"You know, some guys are pattern kind of guys," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And last year it was earlier in the season for him at that point. I don't see why it can't happen if we keep putting him on the right guys."

Worth Noting
• Sunday, the Rays honored catcher/outfielder Stephen Vogt as the winner of the Al Lopez Award, which is given to the top Rays rookie in Spring Training. Since Vogt was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Friday, Al Lopez III and Al Lopez IV presented the award to Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics on Vogt's behalf. Vogt, 27, made the Opening Day roster after hitting .323 with three RBIs, three doubles and a triple in 15 spring games.

• In 12 career starts against the Rays, Ervin Santana is 5-5 with a 5.23 ERA. At Tropicana Field, he's 2-4 with a 6.60 ERA.

MLB.com Comments