ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Andy Sonnanstine got an unexpected crash course on his new role in the bullpen Thursday.
When starting RHP Jeff Niemann was pulled with one out in the second after getting struck in the right shoulder by a line drive, Sonnanstine was quickly summoned to the mound.
Sonnanstine came through, pitching 31/3 innings and gave up just one run in the Rays' 5-4 loss to the Orioles.
"It was different," Sonnanstine said. "I don't think I've ever been in a situation like that. I tried to go at my own pace as much as possible. … just tried to stay calm."
Sonnanstine didn't have time to warm up in the bullpen, but after doing so on the mound, he kept the Rays in the game.
Sonnanstine knew he'd be a long reliever when Wade Davis was named the fifth starter.
"Sonny did great," manager Joe Maddon said.
price check: LHP David Price enters tonight's first start of the season saying he feels better than he ever has as a pro.
Price, 24, had a solid spring, building off a strong second half of the 2009 season, when he went 7-3 with a 3.58 ERA in his final 12 starts. He said his success against tonight's opponent, the Yankees (holding them to a .123 average) gives him confidence, but acknowledged their lineup is always a challenge.
CLOSE CLOSERS: There are probably few closers as close as Rays RHP Rafael Soriano and Orioles LHP Mike Gonzalez.
Soriano said he and his former Braves teammate are like family, with Gonzalez the godfather of his youngest son, Raul (7 months). The two are glad they' will see each other in the same division, but Gonzalez said he's happy he won't have to face Soriano.
"Stuff-wise, his arm is electric," Gonzalez said. "These AL guys have something coming to them. Hopefully, we don't see him much."
FAMILY MATTERS: RHP James Shields was back in the Rays clubhouse Thursday, one day after his wife, Ryane, had induced labor to give birth to the couple's second daughter. Though Shields didn't want to disclose the name, ("You can call her "Baby Game,' he joked from his nickname of "Big Game James''), she is healthy and weighs 7 pounds, 15 ounces. "She definitely got her looks from her mom," Shields said.
INJURY REPORT: Maddon said OF Matt Joyce (elbow strain), in Durham for a rehab assignment, will start off as just a DH, but begin a throwing program to where by the time the 20-day stint ends, he can throw full throttle. Joyce went 0-for-3 with two walks for the Bulls Thursday. … LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder weakness) is scheduled to throw from 45 feet today.
MINOR MATTERS: The Rays signed RHP Logan Kensing to a minor-league deal. Kensing, 27, was released by the Nationals on March 16 and will report to extended spring. The affiliates released their official rosters Thursday, with top SS prospect Tim Beckham placed on the disabled list at Class A Charlotte because of a wrist injury.
MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria was caught stealing for the first time in his big-league career (he was 16-for-16). … Wednesday's game had a TV household rating of 5.0 in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market, the No. 1 cable program in the market for the second straight night.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com