August 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

Notebook

Tigers' David Price excited to see old friends, pitch against old teammates

Since coming to the Tigers in a trade with the Rays on July 31, David Price has lived up to expectations, posting a 0.971 WHIP in three starts. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Detroit — David Price has one more thing to check off before he’s officially settled in with the Tigers.

He’s made his first start with his new team and he’s made his home debut. Now, he’s got to go back to Tampa and pitch against his former teammates.

“It’ll be cool,” said Price, who will get the ball Thursday afternoon against Alex Cobb at Tropicana Field. “It’ll be fun to see all the guys and just going back to my old stomping grounds. I guess that’s the one place in the AL East I haven’t thrown a pitch in as a member of an opposing team.”

It will be Price’s fourth start for the Tigers and it will take some doing to better his effort against the Mariners on Saturday night. Outduelling Felix Hernandez, Price allowed just three hits and struck out seven in eight innings.

“That felt really good,” Price said. “It felt good to help us win.”

After the game, Price said it was the most comfortable he’s felt throwing the ball in his last four or five starts. He’s gone eight or more innings in two of his three starts with the Tigers and has struck out 23 batters in 22.2 innings. His WHIP is an impressive 0.971.

Still, Price’s body of work this season — 12-8, 3:12 ERA — isn’t getting him into the Cy Young discussion, which has been dominated by Hernandez and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

“I am not worried about that stuff,” said Price, the 2012 Cy Young winner. “When you get caught up in that it tends to be all you think about and you end up apply more pressure to yourself. This is game is hard enough. I just want to go out, pitch my game, help my team win and have fun.”

Fun will be on his agenda in Tampa, but so will tying up some loose ends. He still has his home there and said he has big list of things that need tending to. He also will be able to get reacquainted with his beloved French Bulldog Astro.

“I am excited to go back there,” he said. “It’ll be good to see some of my old buddies and hopefully help us win a series.”

Asked if he expected a warm reception from the fans, he lowered his head and sheepishly said, “Yeah, I do.”

Tough duty

Nobody said it was fair, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thus, in the heat of a pennant race, the Tigers have turned to rookie left-hander Robbie Ray to fill in for ailing Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.

“That’s the problem,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He is still developing and we’re asking him to compete in a pennant race. There is going to be some ups and downs there. We are kind of in a bind with (Anibal) Sanchez going down and Ver missing a start, so we’re asking him to step in and it’s a tall order.”

Ray, who was tagged for four runs (three earned) and seven hits in five innings Sunday, knew even before he threw his first pitch that he might be in trouble. He didn’t have a feel for his slider during warmups.

“Yeah I knew it was going to be a tough day for the slider,” he said. “I still threw it hoping I could get the feel back for it.”

Most likely Ray will make at least one more start for the Tigers — they play a double-header in Minnesota on Aug. 23. But how many he gets after that will depend largely on Verlander’s recovery from shoulder inflammation. Verlander is scheduled to throw for the first time Tuesday and, if there are no complications, he would throw a full bullpen Thursday or Friday.

If all goes well, Verlander could pitch in one of the games against Minnesota.

Kinsler's slump

As the Tigers continue their post-All Star break offensive swoon, Ausmus has remained steadfast in not singling out individual players.

“We're a better offensive team than what we've shown since the All-Star break,” he said, after the Tigers mustered five hits against the Mariners on Sunday and were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. “We just need to swing the bat better. We need to drive guys in from second, and we need to get guys in from third with less than two outs.”

And while it’s true that just about every player is contributing to the slump, All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler’s drought is most noticeable. Since the break, Kinsler is hitting .221, with a .248 on-base percentage, a .267 slugging percentage and a .515 OPS.

That’s a far cry from his production pre-break — .303, 11 home runs, .470 slugging.

He was 1-for-12 in the series against the Mariners and on Sunday popped out twice with a runner on third and less than two outs.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky