PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) -Tampa Bay's pitching rotation is set, with rookie Wade Davis settling into the fifth starter's spot.
Manager Joe Maddon made the call Wednesday, when the Rays also beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 behind two solo home runs by Jason Bartlett and another solid pitching performance by Jeff Niemann.
Davis was one of three rookies, along with Niemann and David Price, who finished last season in the rotation.
The 24-year-old right-hander hasn't been as sharp this spring as Andy Sonnanstine. But with reliever J.P. Howell expected to be sidelined a month with a sore shoulder, Maddon feels Sonnanstine is better suited to feel a void in the bullpen.
``I think now that we've finally proclaimed him the fifth starter, he's going to settle in and start pitching like he's capable. I think he's been pressing a bit,' Maddon said of Davis, who's allowed 11 earned runs and 17 hits in 9 2-3 innings this spring.
Davis, considered one of baseball's best pitching prospects, went 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA in six starts after being promoted from Triple-Durham and making his major-league debut last September.
Sonanstine won 13 games while helping the Rays win the AL pennant in 2008. He lost his spot in the rotation and was demoted to Durham after getting off to a horrendous start early last season.
Sonanstine pitched out of the bullpen after rejoining the Rays late in the year, finishing 6-8 with a 6.77 ERA. The 27-year-old has allowed two runs and three hits in nine innings this spring.
``He's had a great spring. I told him a lot of it had to do with the J.P. situation. I felt more comfortable with him in the bullpen,' Maddon said.
``He was disappointed. I told him, I don't blame him. I told him specifically: `Hey, I know you're going to be upset for a couple of days. But I also know that in about three days, you're going to settle back in and get yourself ready for the season.''
Niemann allowed two runs and seven hits against the Blue Jays. He walked one and struck three in the longest of his five outings this spring.
Bartlett hit a solo homer off left-hander Dana Eveland in the fourth inning and another off right-hander Jeremy Accardo in the sixth.
Lyle Overbay went 3 for 3 and had an RBI single and run-scoring double off Niemann for Toronto. Alex Gonzalez hit a solo homer off Rays reliever Rafael Soriano.
Maddon said moving Sonnanstine to the bullpen doesn't preclude him from becoming a starter again.
Meanwhile, the right-hander primarily will be used as a long reliever.
``I'm a little disappointed. I worked pretty hard towards a goal I set pretty early in the offseason. But I feel like I'm a team guy and I'm going to do everything I can to help us win,' Sonnanstine said.
Davis, of course, is eager to make them most of his opportunity.
``Relieved sounds too comfortable,' he said of the decision. ``I'm excited to get out there and pitch.'
NOTES: The Rays made another round of cuts, optioning OF Justin Ruggiano to Triple-A Durham and reassigning nine others - RHP Winston Abreu, RHP Joe Bateman, RHP Jeff Bennett, INF Angel Chavez, RHP Richard De Los Santos, INF J.J. Furmaniak, LHP Carlos Hernandez, LHP Heath Phillips and 1B Ryan Shealy - to minor league camp. In addition INF/OF Dan Johnson was told he will not make the team. The club will update his status on Thursday.
The Associated Press News Service
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