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05/11/11 11:20 PM ET

Sonnanstine to start Sunday against Orioles

CLEVELAND -- Andy Sonnanstine will make a second start for the Rays on Sunday against the Orioles.

Sonnanstine, who has been the Rays' long man out of the bullpen, was pressed into action as a starter on Tuesday night against the Indians, and he allowed two runs in 3 1/3 innings, walking five and using 68 pitches.

"I anticipate he's going to pitch well," manager Joe Maddon said. "He needs to get stretched out. He threw 68 pitches last night, which going to the next start should make him a little bit stronger. We'll see how that all plays out.

"Sonnie's done that in the past. Sometimes he'll look not so good, then all of a sudden he'll rebound and look really good. He doesn't carry negative stuff with him a lot. And, because of that, I think you're going to see a good outing on Sunday."

Confidence, experience fueling Joyce's success

CLEVELAND -- Tuesday night, Matt Joyce took over the American League lead in hitting at .356, passing Toronto's Jose Bautista (.354).

"Any time you can be ahead of Bautista in anything, you get excited," Joyce said.

Joyce is the second Ray to lead the AL in hitting this season, following Sam Fuld. Joyce and Fuld are two of the three players in Rays history to lead the AL batting race any later than the first week of the season, joining Jason Bartlett, who led the league on May 24, 2009, with a .373 batting average.

"It's May 11, the hits are falling for now, hopefully they'll continue to fall for the whole season," Joyce said. "And just keep trying to have good at-bats, too. You can't control whether you get a hit or not, but you control whether or not you have good at-bats. What pitches you swing at. The preparation and the routine you have every day. And that's a big part of it."

Joyce attributed a lot of his success to growing up as a Major Leaguer and gaining familiarity with the Major Leagues.

"As you go along, you get to know your swing better, you know yourself better, you're a little more comfortable when you get in there," Joyce said. "You get more chances to play, you get into a set routine. ... If some hits fall, you get more confident and it just kind of rolls."

Meanwhile, manager Joe Maddon continues to limit Joyce's use against left-handed pitching, noting that doing so has likely been a contributing factor to Joyce's success. Maddon did say that he will use Joyce against lefties who have reverse splits and is considering using him against neutral lefties, too.

During Wednesday's 8-2 victory over the Indians, Joyce went 2-for-5 with a home run (No. 4), two runs scored and an RBI to raise his average to .358.

Upton to begin serving suspension Thursday

CLEVELAND -- B.J. Upton will begin serving his two-game suspension Thursday when the Rays play the final game of their three-game series against the Indians.

He will also miss the opening game of the coming weekend series with Baltimore.

"Obviously, it's not something that you really want to happen or have to go through, but I've got to take responsibility for my actions, man," Upton said. "It happened and it's over with. You know what, we'll deal with it the next two days, and we'll get through it. And I'll be back out there on [Saturday]."

Major League Baseball issued discipline to Upton as a result of the on-field incident that occurred in the bottom of the ninth inning of the May 4 game against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

Joe Garagiola Jr., senior vice president of standards and on-field operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement Saturday that Upton had received a two-game suspension and an undisclosed fine (which turned out to be $1,500) for his inappropriate conduct after getting ejected.

Upton had been scheduled to begin serving his suspension Saturday, but he elected to appeal. Thus, his suspension was held until he dropped his appeal on Wednesday.

Upton has been hot on the current trip, with 10 hits in 23 at-bats, raising his average to .265 for the season.

"You never want to miss games, period, especially for something like that. Like I said, just work through it, let it go, and Saturday's a new day," Upton said.

Pitchers walking on the wild side

CLEVELAND -- Entering Wednesday night's game, the Rays pitching staff had issued 26 walks over the last three games, including a season-high 11 in Tuesday night's 5-4 loss to the Indians. Rays pitchers also walked 10 Saturday against the Orioles, earning this year's staff the distinction of becoming the first team in club history to allow 10 or more walks twice in a span of three games.

The last time the Rays staff allowed 11 walks (or more) was June 8, 2007, at Florida. Prior to this run, the Rays had allowed only 87 walks, fewest in the American League through May 6, with a season high of seven.

Howell getting closer to big league return

CLEVELAND -- J.P. Howell (left shoulder surgery) made his seventh rehab appearance on Wednesday and third with Triple-A Durham. The left-hander did well, allowing no runs on one hit, no walks and two strikeouts in one inning. He will make another appearance on Thursday, pitching on back-to-back days for the first time.

In his seven rehab appearances, Howell has allowed no runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out 13 in 7 2/3 innings.

After Thursday, Howell will make one additional appearance for the Bulls on Sunday. If all goes well, he will then be ready to return to the Rays.

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