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Rays' Price sees scramble for AL East title

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American League Cy Young winner David Price expects the AL East race to be a mad scramble in 2013 with all five teams posing a legitimate chance at capturing the division title.

"It's going to be very exciting. Every AL East game is going to be like potentially a postseason game for us." Price told Reuters in a recent interview while shooting a commercial for MLB 2K13 after supplanting Justin Verlander as both Cy Young winner and cover boy for the video game.

"The AL East is kind of shaken up right now, with everybody making additions and some people losing guys. It's kind of up in the air."

Price, 27, was named the league's top pitcher after going 20-5 last year with a league-leading 2.56 earned run average for the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished third behind the division-winning New York Yankees and wildcard Baltimore Orioles.

He would now like to again follow in the footsteps of Detroit Tigers starter Verlander by getting into the World Series in 2013 but the tall left-hander knows the competition could be fierce.

"Everybody's got their special strength. Ours is definitely pitching and defense and it's still going to be that way even after losing James Shields and Wade Davis," said Price, who said he feels good heading into spring training.

Tampa Bay, challenged to stay competitive despite a modest budget, traded two-fifths of their starting rotation to the Kansas City Royals for top outfield prospect Wil Myers and some young minor league pitchers.

'POWERFUL ARMS'

Price said Tampa Bay would remain competitive since the pitching-rich Rays have young Alex Cobb and Chris Archer ready to step in.

"That's one thing Tampa has done a great job of and that's acquiring young, powerful arms and having an abundance of them down in the minor leagues," Price said. "Guys like Cobb and Archer, they can come out and throw 180, 200 innings.

"They can absolutely do that. So can Matt Moore. We can all increase our innings a little, nobody has to take on what James Shields did as an innings eater."

Last year the Baltimore Orioles flew into contention, taking the division-winning Yankees to the wire before claiming a wildcard berth in postseason.

This off-season has seen the Toronto Blue Jays bring in a load of veteran talent, launched by a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins that looks to have made them an instant contender in a division long dominated by the Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

"The way they came out of there, they are a major contender," Price said about Toronto's off-season haul that included shortstop Jose Reyes, pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins, and National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and outfielder Melky Cabrera.

"They have to stay healthy. If Jose Bautista can come back, if Jose Reyes can stay healthy for an entire year and Josh Johnson can have a year like he had a couple of years ago, he's going to be a huge free agent on the market this year.

"They have guys that are playing for a lot of stuff over there. They are trying to do it all right now, and it will be fun to watch."

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York Editing by Frank Pingue)

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