Price to face Ortiz, Lester on Friday

TORONTO -- Nearly two months have passed since Tampa Bay’s David Price drilled Boston DH David Ortiz with a 94-mph first-pitch fastball, touching off a nasty exchange in which Ortiz declared “war” on the Rays left-hander and Price accused Ortiz of thinking he is “bigger than the game.”

Tuesday afternoon, the Rays announced that Price will pitch the opener of this weekend’s series against the Red Sox in Tropicana Field, which should provide an intriguing subtext to a series already important to two teams trying to climb back into the American League East race.

Ortiz had little reaction to the news Price was pitching the opener. “So?” he said.

Asked if he anticipated any fallout from the last meeting, he said: “Why should I? I'm not the one who's pitching.”

On June 10, the Rays were 24-42, 18 games under .500 and 15 games out of first place in the AL East. Since that date, they are tied with the Angels for the best record in the league (23-11, .676), have won five in a row going into play Tuesday night, and began the night a half-game behind the Sox at 47-53, eight games behind the first-place Orioles in the division.

The Sox, meanwhile, began play Tuesday night as winners of eight of their last nine, and since the end of play June 8 have shaved three games off a 10 ½-game deficit in the division.

So this weekend’s series already promised to be an intense one. The added Ortiz-Price reunion could ratchet up that intensity.

Ortiz was incensed that Price escaped ejection and a suspension for hitting him, while Red Sox pitcher Brandon Workman, who threw a pitch behind Evan Longoria, was suspended six games.

“[The Rays] started everything and we’ve got to pay for it, basically,” Ortiz said when Workman’s suspension was announced. “That’s the message I’m getting. I don’t have any answer for it. But like I say, man, there’s way too much evidence now that he hit me on purpose and the funny thing is we’re the ones getting fines and suspensions, all that kind of stuff.

“I guess the rules are not for everyone.”

Ortiz also said he would not tolerate getting hit again by Price.

“I mean, it's a war,” Ortiz said. “It's on. Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more.”

Price was unrepentant.

“Sometimes, the way [Ortiz] acts out there, he kind of looks like he's bigger than the game,” Price said. “That's not the way it is, not the way it goes. ... Nobody's bigger than the game of baseball. You ask pitchers from 10, 15, 20 years ago -- that's normal, part of the game.”

Sox ace Jon Lester is in line to start against Price.

The Red Sox won that May 30 meeting. Since that game, Price is 6-3 with a 1.64 ERA, striking out 83 batters in 71 1/3 innings while walking just 12.

Meanwhile, Lester is 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA, striking out 64 and walking just 10 in 59 innings in his last nine starts.