Wednesday, May 7, 2008

20 wins for Sonny? Don't laugh

I was talking Tuesday with a buddy of mine who used to cover the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and they were Devil Rays when he was on the beat before he fled for all the color and pageantry college football has to offer.

“Who is Andy Sonnanstine?” he asked.

Good question.

Sonnanstine was a 13th round draft pick in 2004. The Rays took Jeff Niemann with the fourth pick in that draft, so you can see why Sonnanstine would be an afterthought.

Still, the right-hander with a fastball that doesn’t scare anyone learned how to pitch in the minor leagues. He learned to throw strikes, work ahead, pitch to contact, avoid big innings and give his team a chance to win.

It was about this time last season, with the Rays rotation that included Jae Seo and Casey Fossum imploding on a nightly basis, when we began to hear Sonnanstine’s name. A lot.

Sonnanstine had been in big league camp that spring, but I couldn’t for the life of me place a face to his name.

Sonny quietly sailed under the radar, which is probably the best thing to happen to him.

When my buddy was still covering the Rays for another newspaper, pitchers like Chris Seddon and, to an extent, Jason Hammel, represented the next wave of arms that would save the day in Tampa Bay.

Sonnanstine never had those expectations. He just arrived last June and began producing.

On Tuesday at Toronto Sonnanstine stopped the Rays losing streak and won his fifth game of the season to take over the team-lead in victories. His five wins in 32 games represented the fastest start by a Rays pitcher in team history.

His 10 wins since Aug. 15 are the third-most of any major league pitcher. Sonnanstine doesn't create the buzz like James Shields and Scott Kazmir. Not yet, anyway.

It was suggested during spring training by another writer on the beat that Sonny would win 20 games in a season.

I laughed then.

I’m not laughing so much now.

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