Minor League Season Begins Today:
The season begins today for the Rays' four full-season minor league affiliates. The AAA Durham Bulls take on the Toledo Mud Hens at 5pm EDT with RHP Jeff Niemann on the hill. Down in Montgomery, the Biscuits have an 8pm EDT start for their game this evening against the Chattanooga Lookouts. LHP Jake McGee will make the start. In the Florida State League, the A+ Devil Rays begin what is most likely their final season in Vero Beach tonight at 7pm EDT against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. RHP Heath Rollins is the scheduled opening day pitcher for Vero Beach. And lastly, the A- Columbus Catfish begin their defense of last season's South Atlantic League title by taking on the Savannah Sand Gnats at 7pm EDT. RHP Alex Cobb gets the nod in that one for Columbus. Look for the return of the "Minor League Minute" later on this evening for recaps on all of these games.
|RAYS||RH A. Sonnanstine||130.2||5.85||6.68||1.79||3.73||10.40||.812||1.24||1.35||0.91||16.06|
|BAL||RH S. Trachsel||158.0||4.90||3.19||4.33||0.74||10.03||.811||1.08||1.59||1.03||16.66|
Statistics from 2007 Season
RH Andy Sonnanstine-The Rays' control specialist right-hander makes his season debut as the No. 3 starter in the rotation this evening. He is coming off a season in which he pitched better than his ERA showed, as his peripherals were excellent in keeping with his stellar minor league track record. Even though he was able to continue to keep his walks low, Sonnanstine's main problems stemmed largely from major league hitters teeing off on his relatively weak stuff. As a pitcher who gets by on deception and pinpoint control, Sonnanstine will need to improvise continually and stay one step ahead of the curve against major league hitters to see success. Opponents hit .249/.297/.400 in their first plate appearances against Sonnanstine in a game last year; that line rose to .321/.347/.535 in the second plate appearance. Coming off of a Spring Training in which it appeared that he was destined to be the swingman in the bullpen, Sonnanstine will need to make the most of his rotation opportunity this season and prove that he can pitch deep into ballgames. Otherwise, his tenure in the rotation could be short-lived. The bad news for the Rays' righty as he starts out is his track record against Baltimore heading into tonight's game. Sonnanstine made three starts against the Orioles last season for a cumulative 8.04 ERA. He cannot let weak teams victimize him if he is to be successful.
RH Steve Trachsel-Former Ray Steve Trachsel takes the hill for the Orioles this evening, and brings with him his reputation for slow pitching. Trachsel is known for taking his sweet time in-between pitches, and unfortunately for the Rays, this happens to be their getaway game. Once upon a time though, he would have been sitting on the visitor's side of the dugout for this one. Trachsel was signed as a free agent following the 1999 season by then-Rays GM Chuck LaMar, and he pitched with the Rays up until the July 31st trade deadline in 2000. He was fairly productive, putting up a 108 ERA+ while with the Rays, and this productivity allowed the Rays to deal him to Toronto along with LHP Mark Guthrie for 2B Brent Abernathy. He pitched just two months with the Jays before going to the Mets for six seasons. Trachsel returns to the Orioles this season after starting last season with the ballclub. He spent the month of September last year with the Cubs in-between stints with Baltimore. Overall, he pitched to a 4.90 ERA over the full season last year. The good news for the Rays is that Trachsel's career might be on a steep decline to its end. Despite the modest-sounding ERA, Trachsel walked 20 more batters than he struck out over the course of last season. He was able to manage some success by cutting his home run rate from years past, down to 1.08 per nine innings last season from a career mark of 1.24. He also benefitted from quite a good deal of luck in that the 1.59 baserunners he allowed per inning did not translate into more earned runs than he actually gave up. The Rays also stand to benefit from Trachsel's penchant for doing poorly when facing his old team; he has a 5.93 ERA in five career starts against them. Three of those starts came last season, and he posted a 7.53 ERA in those starts. This relative lack of success lends itself to good batter/pitcher matchups for the Rays, and LF Carl Crawford is one of the beneficiaries. He is 5 for 8 with two doubles against Trachsel, while 1B Carlos Peña is 2 for 6 with a home run and four walks against the Oriole righty. On the flip side, today might be a good day to sit the ailing Cliff Floyd, who has just a .392 OPS in 27 career ABs against his former Mets teammate.