05/17/09 8:40 PM ET
Mixup forces Rays to bat Sonnanstine
Longoria sits after two third basemen listed in lineup
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The Rays beat the Indians, 7-5, but not before losing Evan Longoria from the starting lineup.
Immediately after the Indians batted in the first inning, Tribe manager Eric Wedge called the Rays' lineup card into question since Ben Zobrist and Longoria were each listed at third base. Both players had a "5" next to their name, only Longoria's "5" was circled, apparently in an attempt to show he was the designated hitter. Zobrist took the field as the third baseman in the top of the first inning.
Longoria was listed to bat third. Little did anyone realize right away that's where pitcher Andy Sonnanstine would wind up batting.
"I wanted to make sure Zobrist was in the game playing third, and then I pointed it out to the umpires after the top half of the first," Wedge said. "That's why I waited."
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon smelled trouble brewing when he saw the umpires huddle.
"When they all gathered at first base, my immediate thought was, 'Take your card out of your back pocket,' and I did," Maddon said.
What stared back at Maddon from the scorecard was not a pleasant sight.
"Two fives, five there and five there," said Maddon, pointing to the mistake on the scorecard. "And I said, 'Oh no.' My only concern at that point was that Longo stayed in the game. ... This was unacceptable. I [made a mistake]."
After conferring with Wedge, the umpires walked over to the home dugout and talked to Maddon. Thirteen minutes passed before the decision came down that the Rays had burned their use of the DH, which dictated that Sonnanstine would hit third in the order. Longoria had not officially entered the game yet and was available to come off the bench.
"Wedge brought it to the attention of the plate umpire," crew chief Tim McClelland said. "Designated [hitter] has to be designated on the lineup cards, and he wasn't. ... That was just a mis-write, so to speak. ... That's how we interpreted it."
Sonnanstine, like many pitchers, relished the opportunity to wield the bat.
"Bottom of the first, I saw them all meeting, the umpires meeting," Sonnanstine said. "I knew something was up. I didn't know what was going to happen. [Pitching coach Jim Hickey] came down and told me I was going to have to hit, and I corrected him and told him I get to hit.
"I was just excited about it. I was mentally prepared. [Scott Kazmir] brought a helmet and [batting] gloves down to me. So, I just took it as an opportunity. I think Carlos Pena said it best when he said [pitchers] get excited about the possibility of getting a hit."
Sonnastine, who entered the game as a career .400 hitter, attempted a sacrifice bunt in his first at-bat, but the Indians threw to second base for a fielder's-choice forceout. After striking out in his second at-bat, Sonnanstine doubled over left fielder Ryan Garko's head to drive home Michel Hernandez for the Rays' seventh run.
"I thought I caught it square," Sonnanstine said. "I just wasn't sure if it was going to be fair or foul. I was just running as hard as I could."
Sonnanstine left via a double-switch in the sixth inning. Longoria was inserted at third base and walked in his only plate appearance.
Longoria had been initially penciled in as the DH to give him a day off his feet while keeping his bat in the lineup.
"It's obviously not what we wanted the lineup to look like after that happened," Longoria said. "But for [Sonnastine] to come through in that situation ... and like I said, the win is the biggest thing. But he definitely did his job. He got the bunt down, just bunted a little too hard in the first and then the big hit in the fourth."
Despite Sonnanstine's success in the third spot, Longoria, the Major League's RBI leader, said he felt safe about continuing to hit in the third spot "for now."
The Indians were involved the last time such a thing happened, albeit on the other side.
Charles Nagy was forced to bat in the seventh spot against the Jays on July 23, 1999, thanks to a mistake by manager Mike Hargrove.
Manny Ramirez had been listed at designated hitter, with rookie Alex Ramirez playing right field. When Manny Ramirez ran out to play right field following the top of the first, Toronto manager Jim Fregosi pointed out the error and the Indians lost their DH.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.