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Tampa Bay Rays' new No. 5 Wade Davis rebounds from early struggles

DUNEDIN — RHP Wade Davis said he was more relaxed entering Friday's game, his first outing since being named the Rays' fifth starter.

But that calmness subsided during a rough first two innings against the Blue Jays, when he gave up four runs and threw 51 pitches.

"After a few hits fell in, I started getting a little frustrated and angry," Davis said. "I had to settle down a bit."

Davis did just that, bouncing back to hold the Jays scoreless after that in his 52/3-inning outing.

"I loved the way he settled down," manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he was overthinking it in the beginning, and (pitching coach Jim Hickey) went out there, told him to pick up the tempo and simplify things. Once he got a better rhythm in his delivery, he looked a whole lot better."

Maddon had said he thought the uncertainty of Davis' situation played a role in his struggles this spring (8.80 ERA) and that the rookie would be more effective with his role solidified. Davis said it didn't make a huge difference but having a better approach did.

C Kelly Shoppach said, "Once he committed to getting out there and attacking hitters, it came like we expected."

SONNY's new gig: RHP Andy Sonnanstine, making his first relief appearance since learning he would be in the bullpen, struggled, giving up six runs on six hits in three innings, including a two-run homer. Sonnanstine has said there would be a learning curve changing roles, and Maddon said he's not concerned.

"It's his first time out of the bullpen; he'll be just fine," Maddon said. "He was just missing where he wanted to throw the ball. He left some breaking balls over the plate that they hit pretty well."

IN THE SWING: CF B.J. Upton continued his groove at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and two-run homer. He has seven RBIs in his past three games.

"I'm feeling good right now," he said. "Hopefully I can keep this up for April 6 (the season opener)."

Upton said the success is partly the product of his offseason work with new hitting coach Derek Shelton. He said he's benefiting from getting started sooner on his preswing movements and from exercising better pitch selection.

"He's looking awesome right now," LF Carl Crawford said. "He's determined to get back to being his old self. It's nice to see him get off to a good start this spring; I think he needs that for his confidence."

GAME DETAILS: The Rays beat the Jays 14-10. 3B Evan Longoria went 3-for-4 with his third homer, SS Jason Bartlett went 2-for-4 and Shoppach went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. RHP Lance Cormier retired the only batter he faced, pitching on back-to-back days for the first time this spring. The Rays are a Grapefruit League-best 16-7, two wins shy of tying their spring club record.

SMALL BALL: Crawford's sacrifice bunt in the first inning may be a sign of things to come. Said Maddon: "He's really been working hard on that to make it part of his game, which I think can be … 10-15 points onto his batting average, maybe even more."

MISCELLANY: In sorting out starts for his catching tandem of Shoppach and Dioner Navarro, Maddon said he might consider matching them with pitchers they work the best with. … LHP Joaquin Benoit, a candidate for the final bullpen spot, pitched in a minor-league game, giving up three runs on four hits in 12/3 innings.

Tampa Bay Rays' new No. 5 Wade Davis rebounds from early struggles 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 11:35pm]

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