PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays pitcher Chris Archer enjoyed an enriching experience just prior to Spring Training, when he paid a visit to Fort Bragg, the renown Army installation located in Fayetteville, N.C.
"FOX Sports told me the details about it, and it was in North Carolina, about an hour away from where I live, so I had to jump on an opportunity, because I never really interacted with the military before," Archer said. "And obviously, I had an appreciation. But it magnified after my visit."
Among the others making the visit were Mike Dunn of the Marlins, Gabe Kapler (former player and current FOX Sports TV analyst), Royce Clayton (former player), Chris Hammond (former player) and Bob Brenly (D-backs announcer and former manager).
"I now have a greater appreciation and respect for what those guys do on a day-to-day basis, hearing personal stories of why they joined," Archer said. "What they plan on doing in the future. What all goes on at a military base. I mean, it was cool for me. It was a great experience."
Price skips 'pen session, feels ahead of schedule
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- David Price caught everybody's attention Wednesday morning when he did not throw his bullpen session as scheduled.
No worries. The ace was simply exercising an option extended by pitching coach Jim Hickey to all of the Rays' hurlers.
According to the smiling Price: "This is what they told us on Day 1, 'We have three bullpens in six days, and if you want to take one of those bullpens off, you don't have to throw all three.'"
Nothing is wrong with Price. In fact, his health is in good shape as is his pitching.
"I feel really good with where I'm at right now," Price said. "My first two bullpens were really good. And I don't feel like I've been this far along in Spring Training, probably since back in 2008."
Price said his next bullpen will be Saturday during a live batting-practice session.
"Every pitch for me stems off fastball," Price said. "Right now I don't feel like I've missed a whole lot of spots in my bullpens with my fastball. My breaking stuff has been extremely good, as well. But if I can find that release point early on with my fastball, especially as I have right now, it makes [the breaking stuff] easy. ... I'm ahead of where I've been the last three Spring Trainings."
When asked about Price, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he was fine with the lefty exercising the option extended by Hickey.
"Hick told them all they could throw two out of three times, and that's what he decided to do," said Maddon, noting that only a veteran would be confident enough to take advantage of Hickey's option.
"Know yourself and what you think you need," said Maddon, adding: "Know when to back off and reserve and preserve."
Hellickson in unfamiliar territory this spring
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson had arthroscopic surgery in January to remove loose bodies from his right elbow.
The surgery went well, and Hellickson expects to be back with the team in May, but being on the shelf puts him in an unfamiliar situation this spring.
"I've never really gone through the rehab process or anything I'm doing right now," Hellickson said. "It definitely stinks not being out with the guys. I'm kind of by myself, in here [the clubhouse/weight room] all day.
"I feel great. First few days after surgery I wasn't doing much, but since then, I've felt really, really good. No pain. No soreness. Kind of weak, but feeling great."
When visible and outside of the clubhouse, Hellickson can be seen signing a lot of autographs, but mostly he remains inside grinding away at his recovery.
"I'm doing a lot of conditioning -- legwork and arm exercises," Hellickson said. "Trying to keep everything else up to speed, so when I do start throwing, I'll be able to get started."
He estimated that he will begin some form of throwing in approximately a month.
Hellickson, the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, is coming off a rough 2013 season in which he finished 12-10 with a 5.17 ERA, by far the highest of his career. He has never attributed his struggles to any sort of injury, saying he felt fine every time he pitched in a game despite some "normal wear and tear" discomfort throughout the year.
• The Rays will conduct their first full-squad workout on Thursday. After morning physicals, players will take the field at 10 a.m. ET for a meeting, begin stretching at 10:30 a.m. and work out until 12:45 p.m. Workouts are open to the public. Among the pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice are Matt Moore, Archer, Joel Peralta, Brad Boxberger and Alex Colome.
• Hickey and outfielder David DeJesus will be special guests on this week's edition of the Countdown to Opening Day radio show on WDAE 620 AM and other stations on the Rays Radio Network.
• Right-handers Juan Carlos Oviedo and Juan Sandoval still have not arrived to camp due to visa problems.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.