DURHAM/DBAP–The great and irascible manager Leo Durocher once said: “You don’t save your best pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.” I know what you’re thinking, but incredibly Durocher was not a Scorpio.

Nor did Leo manage in the age of multimillion-dollar bonuses, inflexible pitch counts and Tommy John Surgery. In 2009, you’re damn skippy you save your best pitcher for tomorrow if that’s what the front office tells you to do. So Mitch Talbot started last night’s season-opener for the Bulls as per orders from HQ, and phenom David Price was slated for tonight. At 6:45 PM, the DBAP press box was positively drizzling with excitement.

Guess what? It rained. It also thundered and lightninged. No baseball in Durham. Price will pitch tomorrow instead.

In the mean time, a couple of notes from other pastures:

One reason Price is in Durham to begin with is that the Rays had three pitchers competing for the final slot in the Tampa rotation, and the other two couldn’t be sent down to Durham again without risking losing them to another team via mandatory waivers. Well, now they have two: Jason Hammel was traded to the Colorado Rockies a few days ago for another minor-league pitcher, Aneury Rodruguez (who was assigned to Double-A Montgomery). Of the three young musketeers, Hammel was probably the least prized. His departure would seem at first glance to have cleared the way for Jeff Niemann, who has been provisionally designated the Rays’ fifth starter. But make no mistake: Hammel-Niemann-Price was a three-variable equation, and Tampa has factored out H; they’re trying to solve for P, and if that variable does what he’s supposed to do here in D, then N will be the next to disappear, either to another team or (hey Troy Percival, you gonna finish that?) the Rays’ bullpen. And you thought baseball executives were bad at math.

Also, former Bull Jonny Gomes, now property of the Cincinnati Reds, was “a little surprised” that he didn’t make the Reds’ opening day roster despite his productive Spring Training. He has accepted an assignment to AAA Louisville. The Bats come to Durham for a four-game series May 12-15, but here’s hoping that Gomes has been promoted to Cincy by then.