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Kazmir says All-Star game won't affect him
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 15, 2006
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Aside from the autographed bat, jerseys and hats he brought home; the thrill of flying to the game on a private jet with Alex Rodriguez; the compliments from some of the game's biggest names; the memories of the red carpet parade into the stadium; and the impressive results of retiring Freddy Sanchez, Carlos Beltran and Albert Pujols in order in a perfect nine-pitch inning, Scott Kazmir said his All-Star Game experience won't have much impact when he returns to the mound tonight.
Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon thinks otherwise.
"Getting to know Kaz, he really feeds off this positive reinforcement kind of stuff," Maddon said. "When you talk to him, you can be very constructively critical. But when you finish on a positive end, I know that matters to him. The opening-day assignment mattered to him. The shutout versus the Red Sox elevates him. I think the All-Star performance elevates this man.
"He handles it well. It's not like he gets cocky confident. He just gets a little bit more validated or confident by that. He handles it well. He wears it well. It does bolster him, no doubt."
Kazmir warmed up for a long time before pitching the sixth inning Tuesday, starting in about the fourth and throwing 10-15 pitches at a time. He said the extended session was similar to his between-starts bullpen session - "long bullpen" - and he feels fine.
"I wouldn't think it would make too big of a difference," Kazmir said. "The way I've been pitching, everything kind of feels the same. I've got all my pitches back to where I want them, and I have a good feel for them."
RUDDY READY: Ruddy Lugo rejoined the bullpen Friday after 3 weeks on the disabled list. He will slide back into a late-inning relief role but will have company.
Maddon said Chad Harville has earned the right to pitch more important innings, and he plans to have Lugo and Harville share setup work with Brian Meadows remaining the closer.
"Chad deserves more of a prime-time role," Maddon said. "He's really done a nice job and against good right- and left-handed hitters."
Harville hit the break having not given up a hit in eight of his past nine appearances, allowing only a .103 average in a stretch that includes a "no-hitter," getting 27 straight outs without giving up a hit.
Lugo had been pitching with Class-A Visalia and had an interesting trip to rejoin the Rays in Anaheim, driving to Fresno then flying on prop planes to Los Angeles and to Orange County.
"It was terrible," he said.
The good news when he got to the clubhouse was that lefty Jon Switzer had inherited the duties of carrying the pink backpack snack bag to the bullpen.
WELCOME BACK: Maddon was honored in a pregame ceremony for his 31 years in the Angels organization, presented a framed No. 70 jersey by general manager Bill Stoneman and manager Mike Scioscia. He received some unofficial gifts from members of the team staff as well: homegrown tomato, some Italian cold cuts and a bottle of wine.
The afternoon was a fun one as Maddon came early to the stadium, received a steady stream of hugs and hellos and went to the Angels clubhouse to visit. He also brought the lineup card to home plate, which is usually done by bench coach Bill Evers.
But working out of the visiting clubhouse and the first-base dugout was a bit unusual.
"Totally backward," he said. "It's weird."
CATCHING ON: The change in the pitching rotation might force Maddon to revise his catching rotation. He planned to have Josh Paul catch Kazmir and James Shields and Dioner Navarro the other three, but with Kazmir and Shields pitching back to back, he doesn't want to use the catchers that way. Navarro is likely to catch Shields on Sunday.
MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham reliever Juan Salas' amazing streak of not allowing an earned run ended at 48 1/3 innings when he gave up a two-run home run Friday. ... Wes Bankston was promoted to Durham and is playing first.
MISCELLANY: Jonny Gomes and Ty Wigginton are the second set of Rays to reach the break with 16 or more homers. Jose Canseco had 31 and Fred McGriff 19 in 1999. ... Chad Orvella has posted 14 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run at Durham, striking out 24 while walking only five. ... First-round draft pick Evan Longoria hit nine homers in his first 20 pro games. ... Shortstop Reid Brignac's walkoff homer for Visalia on Thursday was his 18th of the season.