Lots of shuffling between Durham and St. Petersburg tonight, let's go step-by-step.
Andy Sonnanstine demoted
In the end, roster flexibility was the difference. Jeff Niemann has no options, Sonnanstine does, there was no way the Rays were going to designate Niemann for assignment, and sending him to the bullpen is a pretty good way to sap any potential trade value he has. For the short run, the difference between the two is quite marginal. Sonnanstine has a 6.01 tRA and 5.10 FIP; Niemann has a 5.44 tRA and 4.82 FIP. In the long run, things get murky. Sonnanstine's tRA* is 5.28 and his xFIP is 4.64; meanwhile Niemann has a 5.20 tRA* and a 5.50 xFIP. The regressions are heavily based upon inflated and deflated homeruns allowed rates.
Scott Kazmir to start Saturday
Hopefully Kazmir's Durham start is an indication of things to come. Don't expect the world in this first start back, otherwise you'll probably be disappointed. If Kazmir has regained 2006 or even 2008 form the Rays are a better team for it. If he's still the mess we saw in April...well, let's wait and see.
Winston Abreu designated for assignment
Sigh. So ends the Quada era.
Hopefully Abreu passes through waivers. I wouldn't be shocked to see a team like San Diego, Seattle, or Pittsburgh throw a claim his way. It's not that Abreu is an overly rare commodity, or even a valuable asset, it's just a bit confusing as to why the Rays would promote him instead of Dale Thayer and risk losing a lottery ticket for a few innings of mop-up work. Not many teams were lining up to give Abreu a roster spot prior to this season, maybe he's back closing in Durham next week after all.
At some point he's going to start drinking heavily before taking the mound in Triple-A. Just so has a challenge.
Chad Bradford added to the 25-man roster
FIP over the last three seasons: 2.53/3.56/4.08. ZiPS has Bradford at 3.39, CHONE at 3.86. If Bradford pitches somewhere in the middle he's the third best high-leverage reliever on the team behind Howell and Choate. Having a sure thing against righties who induces a ton of groundballs should be fun again. My umi says Bradford's delivery is fascinating.
David Price starts Sunday
Demoting Price to the bullpen makes no sense, especially if the goal is for him to learn a third pitch. Seriously, put Price in the pen and he turns into Matt Thornton. I'm not sure where Price falls the rest of the year, but at least he's fun to watch.
Jeff Niemann starts Monday
With Roy Halladay opposing him. Anyone who judges pitchers off wins and losses should A) stop, B) ignore this game as an evaluating tool for Niemann. The Rays offense is good, but it's Halladay.