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10/13/08 2:25 PM ET

A pregame interview with Andy Sonnanstine

Rays pitcher talks about his manager and teammates

Many times in baseball people down play the results of spring training, managers do, players do, but you guys had a great spring training. How important was it for you guys this year?

ANDY SONNANSTINE: I think it was really important. You know, we came out and set the tone with a good record and came out and really kind of bought into what Joe was selling. We were kind of chuckling about the 9 = 8, but it really turned out to be true. And as long as you have the key guys like Cliffy and Percival backing it up, we all just kind of followed.

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You didn't get a chance to pitch a whole lot against the Red Sox, but you had those two big starts in September. I believe both were against Beckett, too. How much did you kind of get up for those games in terms of pitching opposite Beckett? And just how much is the tension of a low scoring game like that where any pitch could be the difference in your game at any time, how much does that feed into your execution and just kind of feed into your mindset?

ANDY SONNANSTINE: Any time you go up against Beckett, he's such a good starting pitcher, that you know it's going to be a dog fight, and you know that runs are pretty precious.

As far as building it up, that's one of the things that I think I do well is just keeping even keel and just go about my business and stay to my game plan and work towards my strengths.

First question is how much will those September games be of benefit to you going into the environment here tomorrow?

ANDY SONNANSTINE: It should help me a lot. You know, build up my confidence a little bit, knowing that I can come in here and do well against the Sox here and Tropicana Field. So I know in my mind that it can be done. I think it was pretty essential for my confidence.

Since you're such a man of many words, can you describe Joe Maddon for us from your perspective?

ANDY SONNANSTINE: From my perspective? (Smiling) Well, he's one of the most intelligent managers I've ever had.

I was a little worried last year about him being so positive. It was a rough year, and he stuck with it and kept our heads up, even though it was a real rough season.

He stayed the same this year. Positivity kind of ran through the clubhouse, and he's a very infectious person. Like he wants you to do well, and he gives you confidence. You can tell when he goes out and talks to J. P. Howell that it helps him out a lot, too.

How inspiring has what Rocco has gone through been for you personally and been for the team in general?

ANDY SONNANSTINE: It's amazing. You know, something, an issue like that, it's completely out of his control. I've had talks with him and Ruggiano in spring training when he was thinking about stepping away from the game, and that was a pretty tough time for him. You know, he did everything he could to see as many doctors as he could and try to figure this situation out.

When I saw him come out and play in Safeco, it was awesome. It was like watching a son go out and play, everything he's been through and dealt with. It's just amazing. It speaks a lot about his character to just get through it and persevere and get back to playing.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

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