Fifth-starter race remains wide open

Fifth-starter race remains wide open

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays manager Joe Maddon reaffirmed Wednesday morning that the competition between Andy Sonnanstine and Wade Davis to claim the fifth spot in the rotation remains wide open.

"Absolutely, it's very close," Maddon said.

Davis finished the 2009 season strong as Tampa Bay's fifth starter, which pushed Sonnanstine out to the bullpen for the remainder of the season. But Sonnanstine worked hard during the offseason and earned a shot at reclaiming the fifth spot. Both are looking up for the challenge, and Tuesday night against the Red Sox, each of the combatants was at his best.

Davis started and allowed three hits and a walk while striking out five in four shutout innings, while Sonnanstine allowed just one hit while fanning three in four scoreless frames.

"Last night, we saw Wade like we saw him at the end of last year," Maddon said. "Sonnie looked yesterday like he never looked last year. To be able to reapproach what he did two years ago when he was a big part -- that September run, [Sonnanstine] pitched as well as anybody that we had, beating Boston in Boston that night was a big game. And [that's] kind of like what he looked like last night."

Davis had been considered almost a lock to be the fifth starter, but Maddon told reporters that Sonnanstine "pitching like he can is very attractive."

"He's always been a winner, he's been a winner his whole career," Maddon said. "And I don't think that's going away. I think what's been added to Sonnie is he's got this method, or way of preparing himself now, which is good, and it should sustain him through the rest of his career."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.