By Fred Goodall
AP Sports Writer
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) — David Price struck out eight in five innings and Yunel Escobar and David DeJesus drove in runs off Ricky Nolasco, helping the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 7-1 on Tuesday.
Price allowed one run and three hits in his second start, surrendering a solo homer to Jason Kubel leading off the second inning.
The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, who signed a $14 million, one-year contract after being the subject of trade talks, walked one, hit a batter and was also charged with a balk during a 75-pitch outing.
The hard-throwing lefty made his spring training debut March 1 against Pittsburgh. He threw a simulated game Thursday, when a scheduled start against Baltimore was rained out.
"It got better as the game went on. The first two innings I kind of felt like I did 10 days ago. I just couldn't slow myself down on the mound. I made some adjustments between innings, and after the second I felt pretty good," Price said.
"He was outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "As the game was in progress, everything started working better and better. He had everything working today: fastball velocity, fastball location, cutter, slider and a really good hook. He was really good. That was fun to watch. He set the tone for the entire game."
Nolasco yielded two runs and four hits in four innings. The right-hander signed a $49 million, four-year contract as a free agent and has made both of his starts against Tampa Bay.
Escobar had a run-scoring double and DeJesus, back in the lineup after being sidelined for a week with a sore right side, followed with a RBI single for a 2-1 lead in the second inning.
Twins: Nolasco, whom the Twins are counting on help bolster a pitching staff that posted a major league-worst 5.26 ERA last season, worked two scoreless innings against the Rays on March 2 and also was coming off pitching in a simulated game due to a rainout.
"He looked good," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Changes speeds, mixes in his fastball, knows how to pitch. ... He's going to fit in fine for us. You can see that."
Rays: Price said he feels as good at this point in spring training as he has since 2009 or 2010.
"I believe it. It was really fun to watch. His ability to execute all of his pitches is uncanny. You have a power left-handed pitcher with a variety of things he can do. When he's got them all going ona specific day or night, it's really fun to watch," Maddon said.
"I don't think he can look any better now," Maddon added. "It's impossible."
Twins: OF Aaron Hicks (throwing elbow) and Oswaldo Arcia (illness) both worked out Tuesday in Fort Myers. They could return to the lineup as soon as Wednesday.
Rays: 2B Ben Zobrist and RH Joel Peralta have been out since last Saturday due to stiff necks, but are expected to be back on the field Thursday. Zobrist is set to be the designated hitter when the Rays visit the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Peralta is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game in Port Charlotte.
Nolasco, who was a combined 13-11 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts for the Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers last season, said he's developing a nice working relationship with Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki.
"We're pretty much on the same page," Nolasco said, "and I get a lot of good feedback from him."
Rays utiltyman Jerry Sands entered Tuesday ranking fourth in the Grapefruit League in batting at .389. He doubled off Ryan Pressly in his only at-bat against the Twins, boosting his average to .421.