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Tampa Bay Rays' backup catcher Michel Hernandez piles up firsts against Boston Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay Rays backup C Michel Hernandez didn't just have a good night Thursday.

"He had a good month tonight," Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon quipped.

Michel Hernandez, an 11-year minor-league veteran who had six career big-league hits before Thursday's game, went 4-for-5 against the Boston Red Sox with three RBIs in the Tampa Bay Rays' 13-0 victory.

In one game — his 14th in the majors — Michel Hernandez picked up his first RBI, first double and first home run.

Hernandez, 30, plans to save the home run ball, considering he hit just 29 in 820 minor-league games.

"I thought I had good contact, but when I passed first, I see, 'Home Run' (on the scoreboard), I'm like, 'Okay' " Hernandez said, laughing. "I've never seen, 'Home Run.' "

Hernandez is in his fourth game filling in for injured backup Shawn Riggans.

Hernandez was admittedly not ready to get the postgame ritual celebration of shaving cream all over his face. "It was my first," he said.

REHAB REPORT: The Rays could be weeks away from having two veteran relievers ready to join the roster. "It's getting to that point," Maddon said.

RHP Jason Isring­hausen, taking his rehab assignment to Triple-A Durham, was scratched from his scheduled appearance Thursday due to a mild abdominal strain suffered while playing catch. RHP Chad Bradford is making good progress in his recovery from February elbow surgery and is close to pitching in games.

Bradford felt good in a bullpen session Thursday and will throw batting practice Sunday and Tuesday. If all is well, he will start a minor-league rehab assignment, aiming for a late May return.

Riggans, on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, is feeling better and said he could start a rehab assignment next week with the idea of catching Matt Garza's scheduled May 10 start in Boston.

SONNY DAYS: Maddon had a long talk with RHP Andy Sonnanstine, who brings an 0-3 record and 7.78 ERA into tonight's start, about focusing on what he does best, which is locate his fastball on the periphery of the strike zone and throw sharp breaking balls.

Sonnanstine said he appreciates the confidence and support.

"We both feel that physically the way I'm throwing the ball is probably the best I've thrown it in the past two years," Sonnanstine said. "And it's quite possibly the worst results I've had in those two years.

"But physically I need to keep thinking about that and understanding you're not going to win every time out and sometimes you're going to struggle. I'm dealing with a little adversity right now, and I'm kind of excited about (tonight) to see how I can face a great lineup."

ROOKIE HONORS: For being the top rookie in spring training, RHP Jeff Niemann received the Al Lopez Award.

APRIL POWERS: 3B Evan Longoria and 1B Carlos Peña ended up tied with Fred McGriff (1999) and Ty Wigginton (2006) for the team record for April RBIs with 24. Peña was two short of Jonny Gomes' 2006 record of 11 homers.

FAMILIAR FACES: Former Rays TV broadcaster Joe Magrane was at the Trop, working the game for his new employer, the MLB Network. … Former quality assurance coach Tim Bogar is now the first-base coach for the Red Sox. Ex-Ray Rocco Baldelli returned, saying it was different to be in the visitors' clubhouse.

MISCELLANY: Red Sox LHP Javier Lopez played rightfield in the eighth, becoming the first Sox pitcher to play a position since LHP Tom Burgmeier appeared in leftfield Aug. 3, 1980.

Tampa Bay Rays' backup catcher Michel Hernandez piles up firsts against Boston Red Sox 04/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 1, 2009 7:59am]
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