ST. PETERSBURG -- Well, at least David Price has maintained his sense of humor.
Amid speculation that Price will be traded before Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Rays' ace tweeted Wednesday morning: "This is my last start for the Rays...IN JULY!!!
"It's my last start for the Rays in July, today's July 31, so it's the last start for everyone," Price said after taking the loss in the Rays' 5-0 setback to the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon.
Whether Price truly thought Wednesday was July 31 or he was just playing around, the left-hander doesn't plan to wait around by the phone on Thursday to see if he's been traded. Instead, Price told reporters he planned to play golf, and while he's doing so, his phone will be unavailable in his golf bag.
When asked if he expected to be with the Rays on Friday, once the Deadline has passed, Price answered: "Yeah, absolutely."
Price defied many forecasts by making his scheduled start against the Brewers on Wednesday, but the rumors continue to circulate. Rays manager Joe Maddon noted that he would much prefer that Price remained with the Rays, but he added: "Regardless, one way or the other you have a job to do and you do your job, regardless."
When asked if he expected Price to still be with the team on Friday, Maddon answered: "Yep. I do. It takes two to dance, boys."
"We've lost a lot of good guys," Maddon said. "That's what happens around here. Until we build a new ballpark, it's going to continue to happen.
"We normally don't get people. We normally don't lose people during the season. We'll see, man. Regardless of what happens, I still believe we're in this thing. Regardless, I feel very strongly we'll be there in the end."
Meanwhile, inside the Rays' clubhouse, some of Price's teammates looked forward to showing up for Friday's game and -- hopefully -- still seeing Price wearing a Rays uniform.
When Jeremy Hellickson was asked if he would be relieved to see Price in the clubhouse on Friday, he responded: "Absolutely."
"We need David," Hellickson said. "We're not going to get where we want to be without him. We need him, and I hope to see him Friday."
What would it mean if Price is still with the team?
"It means it's go time," Alex Cobb said. "It means that we have all the confidence from the front office that we can still make a run at this -- despite the uphill battle that we've put ourselves in -- and that they've done all of their speculating and back and forth and have really determined that with David Price on this team, we have a chance to make it into October."
The flip side of the question is: What happens if the Rays show up Friday and he's not here? Cobb answered the question by saying, "We're going to stay the course."
"I'm not going to lie, it's not going to be easy for us to handle," Cobb said. "We're losing probably the best teammate in Major League Baseball if that were to happen. And a great friend along the way, also. You can say you're the best of friends with a guy, but once you're not in the locker room every single day with that guy, you tend to lose touch a little bit quicker.
"But it will be extremely difficult from a personal standpoint. I can't even calculate the difficulties it would be for a team to lose [Price], you know, forget about everything he does on the field, the type of person he is in the clubhouse and in the dugout to bring an atmosphere like he does night in and night out. It's unlike anybody else. It's that extra [element] too, that sixth tool of being a great teammate. So it would be tough."
Cobb allowed that it was tough to speculate how long the hangover would last if, indeed, Price were traded.
"When we lost Shields, is the only person I can relate it to," Cobb said. "It took us a little while, even in Spring Training and into the first weeks of the season. This could be a different situation, during the course of the season. Right in the middle of a hot streak.
"It will be very difficult, I'm not going to lie. But it's not going to be something that when we show up to the field we give up. It's not, 'OK, they've traded away David, we've given up on the season. Let's go toward next year.' Our one and only goal this year is to make it to the World Series with whoever we have in this clubhouse. I can't tell you how impactful that will be to us, or detrimental it will be to us. For the rest of the 25 guys that are in here, they're going to show up and play that night to keep this stretch going."
The only certainty inside the Rays' clubhouse is that having some resolution will be nice.
"I know it's been hanging over our heads. However, we've done a wonderful job with it," Maddon said. "I can't complain about the results. Our guys are pros. They've handled it very professionally. They know the business component of our game. So I'm really proud about the way our guys have dealt with this moment."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.