ST. PETERSBURG — The outing was shorter than right-hander Andy Sonnanstine would have liked.
But Sonnanstine and Rays manager Joe Maddon were pleased with his overall performance in Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Yankees.
Sonnanstine gave up two runs on four hits in five innings and was more aggressive and sharper than in his first start in Baltimore, when he struggled to get in synch in walking a career-high four while throwing 92 pitches in just 42/3 innings.
"I felt more free and easy," Sonnanstine said. "I felt like I could locate my pitches better (Wednesday). All my pitches were working."
Maddon said the decision to pull Sonnanstine after just five innings (and 78 pitches) and turn it over to right-handed reliever Joe Nelson was partly pre-set; it was also based on how Sonnanstine was getting through the lineup and how it stacked up at the time, with Mark Teixeira beginning a string of five left-handers or switch-hitters coming up for the third time. Maddon said he liked Nelson with that group of hitters, and the reliever responded with 12/3 scoreless innings.
"I thought (Sonnanstine) had to work a little bit to get to that point," Maddon said. "And I just felt it was the right thing to do."
Sonnanstine (0-1, 6.52 ERA) said he felt good physically and "absolutely" wanted to stay in. Still, he added, "I said it last year and I'll say it this year: I have complete confidence in whatever (Maddon) does and I'll stand by his decision whatever it may be."
Sonnanstine struck out three and walked just one, giving up two of his four hits to Robinson Cano, who came up with a two-run homer to deep center in the fourth inning.
"He was being aggressive," Cano said. "I knew I was going to have to swing at his pitch."
Maddon said he liked Sonnanstine's outing, saying he was better, and "on the last strikeout, I thought he had a better depth on his breaking ball."
"He was good," Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. "I've always had a problem with him. When you think the ball is going to be there, that's when its not. He's deceptive, has that little funky delivery. He's a great pitcher."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.