Rays 6, Pirates 4

Updated: March 16, 2009, 11:00 PM ET
Associated Press

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Paul Maholm has had a stress-free spring.

The Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander threw 4 2-3 shutout innings in a 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday and has allowed just one run in 13 2-3 innings in the Grapefruit League.

"I did give up my first walk tonight," Maholm said, grinning. "So, I got that out of the way."

Maholm allowed two hits and struck out four. He could have made it through five complete innings, but Dioner Navarro's infield single put him up against his pitch count.

"No complaints," Maholm said. "I was throwing everything, challenging guys, getting in a rhythm -- just going out there and really having fun."

The Rays scored four runs in the sixth inning against Dave Davidson and Brian Slocum. Jason Bartlett had an RBI single and Pat Burrell drew a bases-loaded walk. The other two runs scored on groundouts.

In his first start of the spring, Rays right-hander Andy Sonnanstine went three innings and allowed a run and three hits.

"I felt good, felt fluid, felt like my timing was there," he said. "The control was there for all my pitches. I've got to keep working on my changeup. I've really got to commit to that pitch."

Sonnanstine is guaranteed the No. 4 spot in Tampa Bay's rotation.

There is a three-way battle among right-handers Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel and lefty David Price for the fifth spot. Price is the most-hyped prospect of the bunch but also seems to be the biggest long shot, and could begin the season back in Triple-A.

"We want to see more command of his fastball," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Carlos Hernandez had been considered a strong candidate for the job, but he was among 11 players sent to the minors Monday.

"He needs a little more time to really get stretched out, coming back from his injuries and how (little) he pitched last year," Maddon said. "We like him a lot. We think this is the best thing for him and for us. We know he can be either a starter or a bullpen guy, but we'd like to see him as a starter first."

Game notes
Pirates RF Brandon Morris (sprained thumb) took batting practice and could play in a minor league game Thursday. ... The Pirates sent eight players, including first-round draft pick Pedro Alvarez, to minor league camp. Alvarez was optioned to Class A Lynchburg. The Pirates have 45 players in camp. ... Tampa Bay OF Matt Joyce, who is recovering from a strained right calf, will play Tuesday in a minor league game. If all goes well, Joyce likely will be the designated hitter Thursday for the Rays. ... Among the players Tampa Bay sent to the minors Monday were prized prospects Wade Davis and Tim Beckham. The Rays have 44 players in camp.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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