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Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine returns to site of first big-league win

MIAMI — Andy Sonnanstine enjoyed his last business trip to South Florida.

After making his major-league debut in Toronto in June 2007 in a game remembered more for a massive bullpen collapse than his solid start, Sonnanstine delivered an impressive performance five days later in Miami, striking out 10 in seven innings for his first win.

"That was the first time that truly believed I could win at the big-league level," he said. "It was a huge confidence-builder."

He has a ball from the game and the lineup card framed at home and vivid memories of the frosty beer shower.

Actually, the game was memorable for another reason. Sonnanstine went 2-for-3 at the plate and jokes now that he considers that more of an accomplishment. (Given that he went 2-for-3 at St. Louis on May 16 and has a career .500 average at 4-for-8, maybe he's on to something.)

Sonnanstine has won 13 more times since and starts tonight as the Rays' leading winner with an 8-3 record.

Shuffled roster: INF Ben Zobrist will join the Rays for tonight's game as team officials are apparently convinced there are no concerns about his throwing, which had been hampered by a sore shoulder that had landed him on the Durham DL. Zobrist was in the Bulls' lineup Monday at shortstop and went 0-for-4, then was told of the promotion.

The reason is to provide depth for what looks to be a hectic week, with SS Jason Bartlett expected to miss a few games — no later than Wednesday and Thursday — for the birth of his first child.

And 2B Akinori Iwamura likely will have a hearing on the appeal of his three-game suspension today and could have to start serving immediately.

National perspective: Most of the other Rays starters are excited about the week of National League rules games because they, too, get a chance to hit. They have been working regularly with pitching coach Jim Hickey on hitting and bunting.

"We've been working hard to get our swings in the best possible shape," Sonnanstine said, "and we're excited about the at-bats we're going to get."

Conversely, primary DH Cliff Floyd figures to be limited to pinch-hitting duties. He planned to bring his outfield glove and said he'd be willing to play the field for a few innings in the event of a double-switch, but manager Joe Maddon said that would be unlikely.

Starry eyes: Carl Crawford (with 534,690 votes) dropped to 14th among outfielders in the latest round of All-Star balloting and is behind Boston's Coco Crisp (by 13,027 votes), and B.J. Upton (with 466,951) is 15th. Carlos Pena is fourth among first basemen with 455,233. One potential good sign is that Twins C Joe Mauer took the voting lead from Boston's Jason Varitek, which could help Dioner Navarro's chances of being named because Mauer was likely to end up on the team anyway.

Minor matters: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who was the other top pitching prospect at Class A Vero Beach with LHP David Price, was promoted to Double-A Montgomery. Hellickson, 21, was 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA over 762/3 innings with — pick which is more impressive — five walks and 83 strikeouts.

Miscellany: FSN added Thursday's 12:10 p.m. game to its schedule. … Rocco Baldelli did not play for Class A Vero on Monday as scheduled. … The Rays keep popping up on published lists of teams that could be interested in Indians ace C.C. Sabathia. … The Rays are adding a TV affiliate that serves Fort Myers, Cape Coral and their new spring base in Port Charlotte.

Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine returns to site of first big-league win 06/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 11:54am]
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