Second time through costing Sonnanstine

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 29, 2007

TORONTO - From the time he made his first big-league start at the Rogers Centre on June6 until he made his 22nd and last there Friday, Rays rookie RHP Andy Sonnanstine has received quite an education.

What happened in a 5-4 loss Friday ensured the Rays (65-95) will finish with the worst record in the majors for the fourth time and in last place in the AL East for the 10th time and proves he still has more to learn.

Sonnanstine (6-10, 5.85) sailed through the early innings but was again staggered in the middle frames, allowing back-to-back doubles to open the sixth that cost the Rays the lead. And after Jon Switzer replaced him and gave up a first-pitch homer to Adam Lind, it cost them the game.

"The thing with me this year is I feel like the first time through the lineup I'm cruising, and next time through I need to mix it up or do something different because that's really where I'm getting hurt," Sonnanstine said.

Manager Joe Maddon concurred: "He was going along nicely. The concern I have is how in the past our innings blow up very fast."

Maddon opted to bring in the left-handed Switzer to face left-handed Lind, but it took only one pitch for that to be the wrong decision. "Hanging slider," said Switzer, whose first batters are hitting .333 (6-for-18). "Just a bad pitch."

BACK-TO-BACK: 1B Carlos Pena hit his team-record-extending 45th homer in the fifth, but it followed what might have been a bigger blast, as Jorge Velandia - who hadn't hit a homer in parts of seven big-league seasons over 11 years - hit his second in four games.

"I think in your wildest imagination you could imagine Carlos Pena hitting 45," Maddon said, "but there's no way you could ever imagine Velandia hitting two."

Pena's homer was his 12th of September, breaking the team record for any month, and netted his team-record-tying 28th RBI of the month and 120th overall.

FIRST AT SECOND:Akinori Iwamura is taking the possible - or seemingly likely - move to second base next season seriously, enough so that he's planning to spent part of the winter working in Tokyo with an old coach, Yutaka Ohashi, to learn the intricacies of the position.

Ohasi, a former Japanese Pacific League shortstop, helped Iwamura make the move from catcher, which he played in high school, to third base, when he became a pro. "So I'm going to ask him to teach me," Iwamura said through interpreter Masa Koyanagi.

Maddon is thinking about asking Iwamura if he wanted to play second today or in Sunday's finale. Iwamura was the DH Friday for what he said was the first time in a regular-season game and went 2-for-5.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are one run shy of their season record, 772 in 1999. ... 2B Brendan Harris still can't take a full swing as his left lat strain lingers, making it unlikely he'll make it be to the lineup by Sunday's finale. ... Rookie OF Justin Ruggiano made his first start, going 0-for-3 with a walk and scoring his first run. ... B.J. Upton and Jonny Gomes were rested, with Greg Norton making his second start of the season in leftfield.