ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' bullpen continues to lead all American League bullpens with a 3.09 ERA while the Twins rank second at 3.14.
Since July 21 (14 games entering Thursday), the Rays' bullpen pitched to a 0.84 ERA and recorded a save in 10 of the team's 11 wins in this stretch. The lone exception was Matt Garza's no-hitter on July 26 against Detroit. Rafael Soriano had eight saves during the period and Dan Wheeler had two.
"They definitely come in and save [the starters] every night," James Shields said. "They've done a tremendous job all year. That's a testament to the back end of the bullpen, Soriano and [Joaquin] Benoit coming up. I think the bullpen has done an amazing job this year and it's one of the key factors for us in our success this year."
Maddon noted that when the team left Port Charlotte after completing Spring Training, he did not foresee the bullpen thriving as it has.
"I would not have made that assumption at that point," Maddon said. "It starts with Rafael, then it leads into [Benoit] and you can't overlook what [Grant Balfour] has done this year. And the rest of the guys really complement those other three."
Top pick still left unsigned
ST. PETERSBURG -- With the Aug. 16 deadline to sign draft picks from the June First-Year Player Draft looming, the Rays have signed six of their selections from the first 10 rounds. Tampa Bay had 13 picks in the first 10 rounds this year.
But don't count the Rays' top pick, outfielder Josh Sale from Bishop Blanchet (Wash.) High School among the signed.
Conversations are ongoing between the team and Sale's representatives.
Signing position players and getting them onto the field is viewed by many to be more important than getting the pitchers onto the field early. While both need to get acclimated to professional baseball as soon as possible, there is almost a science to how many at-bats a hitter needs before he is ready to reach the Major Leagues. Whereas time off for a pitcher is viewed more as saving his arm for pitches he can make later.
Tim Beckham signed quickly with the Rays after being the top pick of the 2008 Draft and accrued 283 at-bats that summer, which became a big factor in his starting this season at Class A Charlotte -- a high A league -- this early in his career.
Ryan Brett, the Rays' third round pick, already signed with the Rays and is hitting .500 in 26 at-bats.
The Rays were not able to sign Levon Washington, their No. 1 pick from the 2009 Draft, and received a compensation pick.
Sonnanstine set for Class A rehab start
ST. PETERSBURG -- Andy Sonnanstine will make a rehab start on Thursday night for Class A Charlotte.
On Monday, Jeremy Hellickson was activated from Triple-A Durham to start against the Twins. In a corresponding move, Sonnanstine was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain, retroactive to July 23.
Sonnanstine said the problem has bothered him since the Rays played the Yankees in New York on July 18.
After Monday night's game, Hellickson was sent back to Durham and Dan Johnson was activated. Which brings the question: What happens on Saturday when Sonnanstine is eligible to come off the disabled list? Rays manager Joe Maddon said a move could be made on Saturday, but he did not speculate about what that move might be.
At 29, Crawford's numbers amongst greats
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carl Crawford turned 29 on Thursday, which begs for a moment of reflection on some of his accomplishments.
Crawford is the seventh player all-time to reach 400 stolen bases before the age of 29, joining Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb, Vince Coleman, Tim Raines, Cesar Cedeno, and Eddie Collins.
He fell one three-base hit shy of becoming the 13th player all-time with 100 triples before the age of 29.
Only one player since 1900 exceeded Crawford's career totals in steals and triples before his 29th birthday -- Cobb.
In addition to the triple, he fell just three home runs shy of becoming the first player with 100 home runs, 100 triples and 400 stolen bases before age 29.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.