Rays recognized in poll of experts
Sporting News panel ranks 50 best players in Majors
NEW YORK -- Three Rays players have been voted to Sporting News' list of "the 50 greatest players in baseball today" as selected by a panel of 125 Hall of Famers, major award winners and other baseball experts.
Third baseman Evan Longoria is ranked 14th, the highest among Rays players. Left fielder Carl Crawford comes in at No. 25 and Carlos Pena is ranked 50th. Surprisingly, the Rays' pitching staff, which has fueled the team's 29-11 start, was left off the list.
St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols topped the list, picking up 67 first-place votes from the panel, which included 18 Hall of Famers, 12 Cy Young Award winners, eight Most Valuable Players, nine Silver Slugger Award winners, 15 Rookie of the Year Award winners and seven Managers of the Year, among others.
Among those who filled out ballots for SN were Nolan Ryan, Al Kaline, Orlando Cepeda, Ralph Kiner, Harmon Killebrew, Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Molitor, Earl Weaver, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Joe Morgan, Red Schoendienst, Goose Gossage, Will Clark, Tom Glavine, Peter Ueberroth, George Will and Bill James.
Upton sees big things coming
NEW YORK -- B.J. Upton is showing signs of life.
The Rays' center fielder doubled twice against the Mariners on Sunday, doubled to right-center field against the Indians on Tuesday and in Wednesday's 10-6 win over the Yankees, he had a double and a single in five trips to the plate. Perhaps most importantly, he hit his fifth homer of the year in the fourth inning on Thursday night.
Upton believes he's starting to get his swing back, but he entered Thursday night's game with a .224 average. He hit .264 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in April but has hit .169 with no home runs and four RBIs in May.
"It's just that I started off so good," Upton said. "Then it was like I had to start from scratch to get it back. It's starting to get better. I'm hitting some balls hard. Some of them have been right at people, though. The biggest thing is just sticking to my approach."
Upton, whose homer on Thursday went over the right-field fence, called Yankee Stadium the "perfect park" for him when he's hitting the ball the other way. Unlike the original Yankee Stadium, the new park seems to have a wind draft that gives batted balls to right-center field a little help.
"This is definitely the perfect park to go that way," Upton said. "I'm not going to change anything -- stick to my approach and do my best."
Maddon stands by Sonnanstine
NEW YORK -- Right-handed reliever Andy Sonnanstine did not have a strong outing on Wednesday night, when he allowed four hits and two walks that resulted in four Yankees runs in the Rays' 10-6 win. In Sonnanstine's previous eight appearances, he had pitched 10 innings and allowed one run on five hits and just six baserunners.
But manager Joe Maddon isn't about to give up on Sonnanstine, first pointing out that the right-hander had pitched for a third night in a row on Wednesday -- something he had never done.
"The next part, he had two outs and nobody on," Maddon said. "He was one pitch away from having another good day, then all of a sudden, it just got away from him.
"He's normally not going to be faced from those situations, but hopefully he learned from it. And I don't think he did that badly, but it just got away from him with two outs in the ninth."
Maddon said that Sonnanstine entered the game throwing the ball well.
"He had good stuff -- a good fastball," Maddon said. "Nice breaking ball. I liked what he was doing -- two quick outs. He just had a hard time after that."
Down on the farm
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson was tagged with his second loss of the season on Wednesday night after throwing just four innings and allowing three runs. The outing by the Triple-A Durham righty marked just the second time this year he has been unable to make it through five innings; he struck out six. ... Justin Ruggiano continues to hit well at Durham. The outfielder, who again turned heads with his performance during Spring Training, is hitting .309 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 27 games. Meanwhile, highly touted outfield prospect Desmond Jennings is hitting .274 with no home runs and five RBIs in 22 games. ... Former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham collected a triple and a home run in his third multihit game of the season on Wednesday night for Class A Charlotte.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.