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Pitcher Andy Sonnanstine relishes opportunity to start for Tampa Bay Rays against Cleveland Indians

BALTIMORE — RHP Andy Sonnanstine accepted his role working out of the Rays bullpen, but it's no relief.

He has to be prepared to go long stretches between appearances or take the mound at any instant if a starter gets injured or is ineffective early in games.

That's why Sonnanstine (0-0, 2.19 ERA) is embracing his opportunity to start tonight at Cleveland in place of RHP Jeff Niemann, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a lower-back strain and could miss three weeks.

Manager Joe Maddon has said he does not see tonight's game against the Indians as a one-and-done chance for Sonnanstine, who could make multiple starts while Niemann is on the mend.

"I think the bullpen mentality is a lot tougher," Sonnanstine said. "I've got a lot of respect for the other guys we've got down there, especially the long relievers in the big leagues. You have to be ready for a line drive shot and you're the guy who goes in. I think knowing when you're going to throw, knowing the game time and being a starter I think is much easier just to be prepared and know every fifth day you're going to be out there."

Sonnanstine's last start came on the final day of the regular season Oct. 2 at Kansas City. Since then, he has made six appearances, allowing three earned runs in 12 1/3 innings.

He pitched three scoreless innings in relief last week against the Blue Jays. But with the Rays starters routinely going seven innings, Sonnanstine has lived a Maytag Repairman existence.

"The thing about him that I love, he works every day at something," Maddon said. "He always stays ready. He keeps his bat ready in case I need him in the 13th inning of a weird game. So I know he's going to be prepared for the Indians. He's pitched in a World Series, so he's not intimidated by anything."

But Sonnanstine has not had much luck against the Indians. In nine career appearances against them, he has a 9.51 ERA.

The other thing to watch is his endurance. Although he normally pitches to contact, Maddon doesn't want to stretch him much beyond 80 pitches tonight. He is hopeful that will be enough to get Sonnanstine through five or six innings.

"It's tough," Sonnanstine said. "It might be a 'day of' type feel, but I would feel 100 percent comfortable throwing 80 to 90 pitches. If we're in the 100s, that might be a little much. I think my last outing, I threw three innings and on 24 pitches. If I carry that over and use that efficient way of pitching, I should be okay.

"I've got some great defenders out there. I'd be an idiot if I didn't use them."

GOOD GUYER: Brandon Guyer's major-league debut was short, but sweet doesn't begin to describe it.

The 25-year-old outfielder homered in his first at-bat, sparking the Rays to a 6-2 win over the Orioles on Friday night before being optioned back to Triple-A Durham two days later.

Maddon said he's confident Guyer will be a big part of the Rays' future.

"He's definitely going to be back here," Maddon said. "He fits our way of playing baseball very well. I liked him the moment I met him in spring training. He's a really eager fella in a quiet and confident, direct way. I liked that about him. I've had other players like him that have been very successful. I really believe he's going to be very good for us in the future."

MINOR MATTERS: OF Justin Ruggiano was named the International League's player of the week after four multihit games. Ruggiano had a .476 average, .560 on-base percentage and five stolen bases that were second in the league, and he tied for the IL lead with nine RBIs on the week.

Pitcher Andy Sonnanstine relishes opportunity to start for Tampa Bay Rays against Cleveland Indians 05/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2011 10:21pm]

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