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Andy Sonnanstine one of four September callups by Tampa Bay Rays

DETROIT — The Rays will get their first experience of life without Scott Kazmir tonight when RHP Andy Sonnanstine returns from the minor leagues to start against the Red Sox.

They'll have three other additional players available in what manager Joe Maddon labeled the "initial salvo" of September callups: RHP Jeff Bennett, C Shawn Riggans and OF Fernando Perez, who will be activated off the DL.

"We have other ideas, other things we may do during the course of the week, we will do, but for right now we're doing that," Maddon said.

Perez, out since a spring training wrist injury, could play a key role as a pinch-runner, something the Rays have been lacking.

Bennett, unimpressive with a 6.75 ERA during his first Rays stint, may have been the biggest surprise, chosen over RHPs Joe Nelson and Dale Thayer.

But the Rays had their reason: He has been working as a starter, and with their next 13 games against the heavy-hitting Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees, they wanted another long man in the bullpen in case of a blowout.

Riggans, who has played only one big-league game in another injury-marred season, was chosen because he was on the 40-man roster and Michel Hernandez, who spent most of the season as the backup, wasn't and would have to be added at the expense of another player.

"We talked a lot about it," Maddon said. "A lot of people here really fought in favor of Michel … but under the circumstances and how this all works sometimes, we had to choose Riggans right now."

Top prospect RHP Wade Davis may eventually take Kazmir's spot in the rotation, but Sonnanstine starts tonight, the Rays hoping his two-month, nine-start stint at Triple A, in which he went 5-3, 4.40, made him better.

After winning 13 games last year, Sonnanstine struggled mightily, demoted in late June with a 6-7, 6.61 record in 15 starts. His biggest problem was with right-handed hitters, allowing a .370 average, and Maddon said he is "doing a lot better," though his Triple-A numbers show he allowed a .323 average there.

1B Carlos Peña talked to Sonnanstine, a close friend, and is confident of a strong showing.

"He's pumped to be here," Peña said. "I just have that feeling it's going to be a good night. I'm optimistic by heart, but I think this goes past my optimism and there's some backbone behind it."

HOT PEñA: Peña's AL-high 38th homer was his 12th of August, one shy of his September 2007 team record for any month. It also gave him 29 August RBIs, matching the second most for any month (Evan Longoria had 31 in April), and 96 overall.

Maddon said this is the best Peña has looked in three Rays seasons: "It's the best mechanically correct swing he's had."

MVP, MVP: OF prospect Desmond Jennings' impressive breakthrough season now includes the Double-A Southern League MVP award.

After missing most of last season at Class A with injuries, Jennings, 22, jumped to Double A and starred, batting .316 in 100 games and leading the league with 122 hits and 37 steals before being promoted to Triple A.

"Desmond winning the Southern League MVP award is a testament to his hard work, determination, perseverance and overall skill and ability," farm director Mitch Lukevics said.

Miscellany: Tickets are available in all price categories for the Boston games. … Fox Sports reported, as the Times did previously, that INF Sean Rodriguez is among the player-to-be-named candidates in the Kazmir deal. Fox also listed C Bobby Wilson, of Seminole High. LHP Alex Torres worked four innings in his debut for the Biscuits. … The postseason roster was submitted Monday. … Longoria grounded into his team-record 25th double play. … The Rays scored six in the first once this season, May 18 at home vs. the A's. They last did it on the road July 4, 2002, at Texas.

Andy Sonnanstine one of four September callups by Tampa Bay Rays 08/31/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 6:44am]
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