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Tampa Bay Rays starter Sonnanstine happy with changeup's progress

Andy Sonnanstine, who pitched seven innings against Boston, says he threw 12-15 changeups and felt “really good about it.”

Associated Press

Andy Sonnanstine, who pitched seven innings against Boston, says he threw 12-15 changeups and felt “really good about it.”

FORT MYERS — Andy Sonnanstine became the first Rays starter this spring to pitch into the seventh inning, going a full seven Tuesday.

But the 26-year-old right-hander was just as happy with how far his developing changeup has come in camp.

Against Boston, Sonnanstine said he threw more changeups (about 12-15) than he has in a long time. He has said if he can make the pitch above average, it could take him "to the next level."

"I feel really good about it," he said. "Good arm action, felt good. I'm throwing it with more accuracy and deception."

Manager Joe Maddon was pleased with Sonnanstine's 92-pitch outing, noting that of the five runs he gave up, most came on one pitch, a three-run homer by Jason Varitek.

Sonnanstine said "just the fact I'm throwing more (changeups) is helping my confidence, and to right-handed hitters (as well)."

CENTER STAGE: OF Matt Joyce, continuing his late bid to make the team, played a full game in centerfield, making a couple of nice running catches in the gaps, including racing to the right-center warning track to snag a fly ball by David Ortiz.

Joyce, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, has impressed with his bat, but Maddon said he has also done well defensively in centerfield, where he's an option to temporarily replace rehabbing B.J. Upton. Joyce did make one error, bobbling a ball that came off the wall, but was strong overall.

"Joyce looked good again, very good actually," Maddon said. "He's just smooth out there. He's smooth, he runs good routes."

PEN NOTES: RHP Grant Balfour struggled in the eighth, giving up three runs on three hits while getting just two outs before getting pulled with two runners on. Balfour walked two and gave up a two-run double and the go-ahead single. "Grant just got fastballs in a bad spot," Maddon said. "Normally last year he was able to throw that fastball by people. He just hasn't been as sharp with his velocity or his location. But I believe he's going to be fine."

UPTON UPDATE: Upton said he was going to run the bases in a minor-league game Tuesday and will rehab at least a few games in Port Charlotte with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, who open April 9, as opposed to going to Montgomery or Durham. "We're planning on keeping him close because of the weather," Maddon said. "We have a much better chance the weather is going to be in better shape."

MINOR MATTERS: LHP Chuck Tiffany, the once-promising prospect acquired from the Dodgers, was released from minor-league camp.

Tiffany, 24, was considered the key acquisition at the time of the January 2006 trade that also brought Edwin Jackson to the Rays in exchange for RHPs Danys Baez and Lance Carter.

Also released from minor-league camp were INF Chase Fontaine, who was acquired from Atlanta in January 2008 with Willy Aybar for LHP Jeff Ridgway (who was released by the Braves this week), LHP Jino Gonzalez, INF Patrick Cottrell and INF Michael Ross.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (13-15-1) took a 7-2 lead on two-run homers by Joyce, Gabe Gross and Jon Weber but lost 8-7.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com

Tampa Bay Rays starter Sonnanstine happy with changeup's progress 03/31/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 7:08am]
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