TB@HOU: Price on returning from DL, outing vs. Astros

HOUSTON -- David Price could not have dreamed of the game he pitched Tuesday, coming off the disabled list with a seven-inning, three-hit, 10-strikeout performance.

Though missing the majority of the first half of the season, Price said that being in the DL would make him fresher.

"I've missed a lot of innings on my arm and my body," Price said. "I used this time [on the DL] correctly. It wasn't just a rest time. I continued to do all my work. I feel good."

Eager to get back on the mound, Price said pacing his return would pay dividends over the second half of the season.

"It's been a tough process, but we've done it the right way," he said.

Price said he liked the direction the team was headed as the second half of the season approached.

"We haven't played our best baseball," Price said. "With myself being out and [Alex] Cobb being out, we've had young guys step up. That's what you've got to have throughout the course of the season if you want to be playing into October."

Homestand presents opportunity for Rays

TB@HOU: The Rays drive in four runs the seventh

HOUSTON -- The Rays return home Friday for 10 games against teams with records under .500 and a chance to go into the All-Star break on a positive note.

"We'd like to think so," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been playing pretty well. Getting David [Price] back, and it would be nice to get Longo back also," referring to Evan Longoria, who played at designated hitter Wednesday and Thursday while battling plantar fasciitis.

"A lot of good things are happening for us right now, but we've got to do it on the field," he added. "Theory needs to be reality, and then all of a sudden it's a good thing. So we're trying to make theory and reality come together."

Coming off an emotional homestand, Maddon said he was concerned about the mental aspect of the team heading into the four-game series that ended Thursday in Houston.

"I didn't know how we would react," he said. "Just looking at my state of mind, maybe a little bit tired compared to the last couple of days. We'd been at home, a lot of emotion in the Toronto series, and then the Detroit series and having to travel to a new ballpark. So I was a little bit concerned."

But that uneasiness was put to rest with back-to-back shutouts, 12-0 and 8-0, in the first two games of the series in Houston.

Hellickson eyes different result in White Sox rematch

HOUSTON -- Over his last three starts, Jeremy Hellickson has yielded three total runs. The righty looks to continue that streak when he takes the mound Friday against the White Sox at Tropicana Field.

"I'm just getting ahead early," Hellickson said of his recent success. "Guys are putting it in play earlier. I'm not getting as many foul balls as maybe I was early. The defense has been making some unbelievable plays behind me. That keeps the pitch count down."

Hellickson is hoping for different results than the last time he faced the White Sox, when he gave up five runs on five hits over six innings in Chicago on April 25.

"They've got some really good hitters in the lineup," he said. "I'm going to have to be at the top of my game again."

Keeping his walk total down will be key. Hellickson issued four free passes in Chicago.

"It was early in the year," he said. "I wasn't too good. It was during that stretch where I had a few walks, and then give up the big hit. Nothing was really going right at that time. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little different.

"I've been able to get ahead with all three of my pitches. I wasn't able to do that early in the year. The confidence is a little bit higher now, too."