ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price threw a three-inning simulated game Thursday afternoon, and everybody came away impressed with his progress from the strained left triceps that put him on the disabled list.
"Velocity on the fastball was way up there, I thought," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Slider, cutter, changeup, everything was outstanding. Delivery was good. I thought he looked ready to go."
Added Price: "I felt great. It was good to get back out on the mound and face hitters even though it was not a real game; it was my teammates. It's still good to get out there and see somebody standing in the box. It was a good day overall. I felt very strong."
Facing teammates Ryan Roberts, Sean Rodriguez and Sam Fuld, Price threw 54 pitches in three innings, taking time to sit down between innings as he would during a regular game.
Prior to facing his three teammates, Price had a surprise visitor step into the batter's box: James Shields.
The former Rays hurler, who now pitches for the Royals, watched a few go by without swinging while hamming it up with his good friend.
"I knew he was going to do something," Price said. "I was waiting for him to swing once. But he didn't catch me by surprise."
All kidding aside, Maddon was so impressed with his ace that he said the plans for Price's return would be accelerated.
"He's actually exceeding expectations a little bit," Maddon said. "I thought he could have pitched today in an actual game.
"He's accelerated; there's no question," he added. "I just have to sit down and talk with everybody before I give you guys bad information. I just saw a guy who was a lot further along than we thought."
Price is now on a work schedule like the one he would follow during the regular season, which means he will take off Friday, throw a bullpen Saturday, take two days off then pitch in a game Tuesday. Where he will pitch is not yet known, but Class A Charlotte plays in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday, Double-A Montgomery is off and Triple-A Durham plays at home.