SEATTLE - JUNE 03: Starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine #21 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 3, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
I used to like Sonny. I really did. Back in 2008, Andy Sonnanstine looked like a young starter with some real promise, and while it's hard to believe now, I was once excited to see what he could do in the bullpen.
But sadly, those days are long gone. During his 32.2 innings of work this season, Sonny has been worse than horrible: he's allowed over a hit an inning, walked more batters than he's struck out, and allowed 10 homeruns. He has the worst FIP of all pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched on the year (7.52), and his performance has been worth nearly -1 WAR. His command has seemingly left him, and, as much as I hate to say it, he simply hasn't looked like a major league caliber pitcher anymore.
So why is Sonny still on the Rays' roster? I honestly don't know, but there are some possible reasons why.
1) Out of options? It can be difficult to determine how many options players have; the information isn't made publicly available, so you have to rely on extensive Google searching to find out when players were first added to a 40-man roster (or have a memory like an elephant). I've been under the impression that Andy had one option remaining, meaning he could be demoted to the minors without passing through waivers, but his continued presence on the Rays' roster has me thinking maybe I was wrong.
If Sonny is out of options, that means that every other team in the majors would get a chance to pick him up if the Rays wanted to demote him. But would any other team take a flyer on him? It's been two years since Sonny displayed any real promise, and he looks like he needs some time in Triple-A to fix his command. He's not an obvious candidate to get snatched up by another team.
I know the Yankees are hurting for starters, so maybe the Rays are hesitant to hand a starter to their rivals. But if that's the case, I'd almost love for the Rays to get the chance to tee off against Sonny in Yankee Stadium...
2) Lack of other candidates? Maybe the Rays feel they have no other pitchers they can call up in Sonny's stead? But this is baloney: there's Chris Bootcheck, Mike Ekstrom, Dirk Hayhurst, and Dane de la Rosa -- all of whom can work multiple innings at a time and (I believe) do better than Sonny right now.
I'd especially love to see what Dane de la Rosa could do in the majors. In 37 innings in Durham this season, he's struck out 41 and only walked 16. The one concern is that he's let up 33 hits as well, but still, we'd be asking him to replace a 6.06 ERA and 7.52 FIP.
3) Rotation shuffles? It's not as though Maddon has used Sonnanstine all that often this season. It's been 11 days since Sonnanstine last pitched (and that was only a one inning affair); heck, Sam Fuld has taken the mound more recently than Sonny. Maddon has gone as long as 17 days without using Sonny this year, and his primary purpose seems to be to pitch in low leverage innings or to fill in for starters.
But even then...with the Rays up 8-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning last night, Maddon decided to bring in Cesar Ramos and Joel Peralta instead of Andy. If you're not going to use him in that sort of situation, when are you going to use him? Why don't you call up a reliever you might stand a chance of using? Are the Rays that concerned about have a spot-starter on the team?
Maddon has used Sonnanstine to move the rotation around before, and with his talk about shuffling things for the upcoming series against Houston, maybe he's anticipating Andy getting into the rotation for a spot start soon.
The Rays are normally so good at maximizing their roster, so it baffles me that they're willing to reserve one spot on their 25-man roster for a pitcher that they barely ever use. They must have their reasons why, but it'd be much more efficient to use that spot for another bench player or a pitcher they would actually use. Is this another developmental thing, where the Rays are allowing the sub-optimal player to stay on the roster because they don't want to screw with younger, more talented players?
I don't know. But Sonny needs a chance to get his act together, and it's not happening in the majors right now. Why won't the Rays just give him a break?