Rays-Marlins Preview

Andy Sonnanstine has started only six games – with so-so results

– over the past two years for the Tampa Bay Rays, but he spent much

of his first three seasons as part of the rotation.

Be it as a starter or reliever, Sonnanstine’s success against

the Florida Marlins has been consistent.

Sonnanstine opposes hard-throwing Anibal Sanchez when the Rays

visit the Marlins to begin a three-game interleague series Friday

night.

Inserted into the rotation after Jeff Niemann (back) was placed

on the disabled list, Sonnanstine (0-1, 3.92 ERA) will make his

third start of the season after struggling in his first two. He

allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings of a 9-3 loss to

Baltimore on Sunday.

The right-hander has allowed six runs and 12 hits – including

three homers – in 8 1-3 innings as a starter, compared to a 2.19

ERA in 12 1-3 innings over six relief appearances.

Though manager Joe Maddon hesitated to commit to Sonnanstine in

the rotation following Sunday’s game, he may be comfortable with

the idea for at least this outing.

In four starts versus Florida from 2007-2009, Sonnanstine went

3-0 with a 3.09 ERA and 22 strikeouts. In three relief appearances

– all last season – he had one save and a 3.86 ERA with eight

strikeouts in 9 1-3 innings.

Sonnanstine, who figures to get a chance to bat Friday, is a

.318 career hitter.

He’ll look to help the Rays (25-19) rebound from their fourth

loss in six games, a 3-2 defeat Thursday at Toronto.

Sam Fuld, hitting .152 in May after he appeared headed for a

breakthrough season in April, did not play Thursday. Maddon said

the slumping outfielder would sit again Friday.

“I talked to him and said, ‘Hey, it might be the perfect time to

go two days in a row,'” Maddon told the Rays’ official website. “It

just worked out perfectly.”

Sanchez (3-1, 2.90) likely won’t make it easy for the Rays to

get back on track.

The right-hander has won his last two starts – both against

Washington – while allowing five hits and striking out 20 in 15

scoreless innings. He’s 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA and 35 strikeouts over

his last five starts and hasn’t lost since April 10.

Sanchez beat the Rays 14-9 last June 11 in his only career start

against them, giving up four runs in seven innings.

The Marlins (24-18) hope to avoid their second three-game losing

streak of the month after going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring

position Thursday en route to a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

“That’s pretty much the story,” manager Edwin Rodriguez said.

“It’s not a matter of lacking effort or intensity, it’s just not

going our way right now.”

While Florida has gotten off to a solid start overall, Hanley

Ramirez has not. The struggling shortstop went 2 for 5 on Thursday,

raising his average to an anemic .217.

Ramirez helped the Marlins take four of six meetings from the

Rays last season by hitting .368 with a home run and six RBIs in

the season series.

Florida has an NL-best 127-107 record in interleague play since

it was introduced in 1997.