A couple of late-afternoon news updates courtesy of The Heater:
- OF Jonny Gomes' suspension has been reduced to one game from his original punishment of two, and he will serve his suspension today. The suspensions of Yankee OFs Shelley Duncan and Melky Cabrera were also reduced, however, from three games to two. Cabrera will serve his suspension for this game and tomorrow's, while Duncan will be out of commission for the final two games of this series.
- It appears that, contrary to earlier fears, the game tonight will be played. Marc Topkin reports that the tarp has been removed from the Yankee Stadium playing surface.
- And lastly, speaking of inclement weather, Thursday evening's rain-out in Baltimore will be made up as part of a good old fashioned double-header on the 23rd of September. The first game, the make-up, will be played at 5:05 in Camden Yards. That game will be followed, perhaps a half-hour after the conclusion of the first, by the Orioles-Rays tilt that had already been scheduled for that evening.
RH Andy Sonnanstine-The Rays' control specialist right-hander makes his delayed season debut tonight after having his first scheduled start yesterday rained out in Baltimore. 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 games last year; a line that rose to .321/.347/.535 when facing him a second time. Coming off of a Spring Training in which he surprisingly came from the depths of swingmen to make the rotation, Sonnanstine will need to make the most of his rotation opportunity this season and prove that he can pitch deep into ballgames in order for his starting career to last. He could be on a quick leash with a slew of prospects soon to arrive in the major leagues. The good news for his quest to remain in the rotation is that it starts out in Yankee Stadium. One of his best starts last year came in his first (and until today, only) start in the Bronx. Sonnanstine pitched eight innings of baseball in an August 31st game there last year, surrendering no earned runs and just two hits while walking none and striking out five. He made another, less successful appearance against New York at Tropicana Field earlier in the season, but even with that factored in, his ERA is still just 3.14 all-time against New York.
RH Ian Patrick Kennedy-The highly regarded Yankee right-hander makes his 2008 debut tonight, in what should be his first full major league season. Kennedy, 23, was the 21st overall pick by New York in the 2006 draft out of Southern California. The Yankees value him immensely and have been fiercely protective of his future in New York, preferring if at all possible to keep him out of trade talks. This was one of the potential stumbling blocks that derailed the Johan Santana trade. But even though the Yankees have labored to keep him in the organization, they haven't been at all conservative with his development. Kennedy threw just 149 minor league innings before receiving a September call-up last year, dominating at all rungs of the minor league system before his 19 inning trial run in the majors. The Yankees might have good reason to keep Kennedy on a swift developmental tract: his minor league career ERA is a stunning 1.87. So far, his three starts in the majors last September are his only big league experience. But if a cumulative 1.89 ERA says anything about his future, the American League needs to be worried. The Rays had a first-hand look at that major league stint, being on the receiving end of his dominant major league debut. Kennedy gave up just one earned run over seven innings of work on September 1st against Tampa Bay, while walking two and striking out six. The outing is, to date, his only major league win. Going forward, his first prolonged taste of major league action should be a really interesting window into how he fares from here on out. Much of New York's future is dependent upon how he fares, and the Yankees are hopeful that he will provide a stabilizing influence and a much-needed infusion of youth to a volatile rotation.
Who was the MVP of tonight's game?
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RHP Andy Sonnanstine
2B Akinori Iwamura
1B Carlos Peña
DH Cliff Floyd
C Shawn Riggans