David Price Just Keeps Getting Better

The Tigers’ new ace talks to Maxim in the midst of the best season of his career. 

David Price has nothing left to prove. He’s a Cy Young winner, a four-time all-star, and the linchpin of a rotation that also includes Justin Verlander. This season, Price has taken it to a completely different level. With the lowest E.R.A. of his career, as well as only notching two losses, Price will be what gives the Tigers the edge in the run up to the playoffs. 

The Tennessee native spoke with Maxim about his season, changing teams, and what the future holds for his beloved Vanderbilt baseball team.

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Does it feel different have a chance to do a full season in Detroit? How does that help in terms of approaching the year?

It definitely helps. Being in the situation that I was in last year—that was the first time I was ever really in a situation like that. Approaching the year, I didn’t really know what to expect. I did know there was a good chance that if we weren’t in first place in our division and playing extremely good baseball that I had a chance to be traded. Everybody there knew I didn’t wanna be traded. Everybody knew how much I loved being there and how much I loved my teammates and just the whole deal and the whole opportunity that they gave me. But that wasn’t the way that it worked out, and I was traded to Detroit, and it was very tough at first. It was. But getting to come back with Detroit and going to spring training with the guys and doing all that stuff—and just getting to know everyone more on a personal level has made me way more comfortable, and it’s been a lot of fun.

One thing you’ve been able to do in your career is really avoid any major injuries. You see a lot of younger pitchers these days having a lot of their early years wiped off the board, because they need to have surgery or they just have a lingering thing. How have you really been able to avoid the career-altering injury?

I would like to think hard work and just taking care of my body. I was in Tampa, and their training staff is second to none.Those guys are very, very good at what they do, and they taught me how to take care of my arm and just my body in general, I guess.

Have the new limits for the time in between pitches  affected your performance in any way?

I always talk about it in the locker room. I’m one of the slowest pitchers in all of baseball. I’m in between pitches. I let it be known that—hey guys, if I’m pitching today then go ahead and you can do your routines. You can step out and do whatever you wanna do. By the time you get back in, I might be ready by then. But I always have fun with it. The game starts and stops with the pitcher. We hold that baseball. Nothing happens until we decide it does, and that’s the way it’s been, and that’s the way that I still approach it. If Major League Baseball really started putting major penalties, I would have to adjust. But you don’t wanna be out there speed pitching. That’s not for me. 

It seems as though the AL Central is really shaping up to be premier division in the  league. So not only will you get to see these lineups a bunch of times during the regular season but if all goes well you’ll get to see them a couple times during the postseason as well. Which lineup of your division rivals do you feel gives you the most challenges or makes you work a little bit harder?

It is a very, very tough division. I do think it is now the best division in baseball in the AL Central. To be pitching against a team, I think it kind of differs between a left-handed pitcher and right-handed pitcher. Maybe further away they might give you the Indians. I don’t know what his numbers there are against them or anything like that. I’m just saying that, because the Indians will run out eight left-handed hitters in that lineup, and they can run up nine if they want to. They can have nine left-handed hitters in that lineup to face a right-handed pitcher. So for me, it’s a little bit different. They had, I guess, three lefties in the lineup the other day when I faced them. For me, I would probably go with the Royals. The Royals are a very tough team to pitch against. Obviously, with the team speed that they have and the guys at the top of their lineup that are swinging the bats the way that they are—Moustakas and Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, and then you mix in Alex Gordon and Salvador Pérez with what he’s been able to do…all of them, really. They have a really, really, really good team. And then you mix in the speed that they have, and that just makes it even more tough. Plus the fact that they don’t strike out a lot and are gonna put the ball in play. When you put the ball in play and you have the speed that they have, that applies a lot of pressure to your defense.

You were talking about them trotting out different players in different sides of the plate. Obviously one of the more fun stories from this season in baseball is Pat Venditte pitching from both sides of the plate. Can you throw at all righty? Have you ever tried?

I’ve goofed around with it, whether it’s BP or something like that, but whatever I throw – say I throw ten or fifteen balls right into the screen, that next day, oh my god. I feel like I need surgery on my right shoulder. You kind of have to be careful with it. I’ve heard Yu Darvish is a very good lefty thrower – like I heard he can throw 80-miles-per-hour lefties. That doesn’t surprise me. He can throw baseballs with both hands, and I get it. But I heard he goes out and shags with a left-handed glove or a glove for a lefty, and then he’ll throw all his balls left-handed days he’s not pitching. And it kinda makes sense, because you wanna save your bullets, and you don’t wanna be out there shagging and throwing balls 150 feet to the screen, so it’s pretty smart. it.

You graduated from Vanderbilt and are a huge Vanderbilt fan, and they’re right in the middle of the College World Series. Do you think they can win it?

Oh yeah! Absolutely! 

Are there any players right now for Vanderbilt that you’re like “This guy’s got a great future in Major League baseball?”

Shoot yeah! At Vanderbilt you have chances to be successful after you leave no matter what you do. So those guys have put themselves in the position to be successful, and for them I hope there’s some of that success on the baseball field.

Going from college to the Major Leagues really worked out for you in terms of—you were in the Majors with just a little over a year later. Do you really feel that getting the experience in college is the right decision for pitchers?

I think it’s the right decision for everybody. Everybody needs to go to college and experience those two or three or four years that you can spend there. You’re gonna learn so much about yourself as a person, and I’m not talking about on the baseball field. You know, I’m talking about away from it. It gives you a chance to find out who you are and what you wanna be—both on the baseball field and away from the field. You need that time to mature a little bit. Everybody is different, and I do understand that. But I think everyone needs that college experience. It was the best three years of baseball and probably the best three years of my life. It was hands down the best decision I have ever made, and I’m happy it worked out the way that it did. 

Photos by Rey Del Rio/MLB Photos via Getty Images