First Pitch: CC vs. Price ... here we go again

NEW YORK -- Weren't the Rays supposed to trade David Price last winter?

They didn't, so the Yankees have to face him again Thursday night, in their first meeting of the season with the Rays. And CC Sabathia has to face him.

Of course he does.

Sabathia would tell you that he doesn't care who the opposing pitcher is anytime he takes the mound, but it's hard to imagine he doesn't take note when it's Price. It's hard to believe he doesn't take it as just a little more of a challenge.

It's not just that Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young winner, remains one of the best pitchers in the game. It's also that when Price and Sabathia meet -- and they've met often over the last five seasons -- things usually don't go well for Sabathia and the Yankees.

In fact, of the nine times Sabathia and Price have gone head-to-head, the only time the Yankees won was a May 2012 game at Yankee Stadium. Sabathia allowed two early unearned runs that night, but he gave up no other runs in a 5-3 Yankees win.

Sabathia came to the Yankees in time for the 2009 season. That was also Price's first full year with the Rays. It's mostly been random chance that has so often thrown them into the same games; Sabathia has faced Price in more than a third of his starts against Tampa Bay in that time.

Sabathia hasn't always been awful in his meetings with Price, but his overall ERA in the nine games is 4.50, almost a run higher than his ERA in all games in that span. And while he's 1-6 in the meetings with Price (the Yankees also lost two games in which neither pitcher received a decision), Sabathia is 50 games over .500 (88-38) against every other starter he has faced as a Yankee.

Price's ERA in his nine starts against Sabathia is 2.41.

Price has pitched well in his first three starts of 2014. His ERA is 2.91, and the Rays have won all three games. The Yankees have won just one of Sabathia's first three starts, and his 6.63 ERA is one of the worst in baseball.

The Rays are struggling through something of a rotation crisis, caused by injuries to Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb. Moore is done for the season with an elbow problem that requires Tommy John surgery, but Hellickson and Moore could return sometime around June 1.

After Price starts Thursday night, the Yankees will see Erik Bedard, Chris Archer and Cesar Ramos in the remaining games of this weekend's series.

Pitching hasn't been the only problem for the Rays. They've scored only 14 runs in their last nine games, and just finished a 3-5 trip to Kansas City, Cincinnati and Baltimore.

The slow start and the injuries will have people wondering whether the Rays would consider trading Price at midseason. Price will be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, the Rays are highly unlikely to sign him long-term, and his trade value will likely decrease as free agency approaches.

All those factors led many to believe he would be traded last winter.

Perhaps CC Sabathia wishes that he had been.

Got you covered: Wallace Matthews will have all the action from Tampa, Fla.

Question: What do you expect in tonight's Sabathia-Price battle?