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Kazmir's psyche trumps numbers
The best thing LHP Scott Kazmir could say about his somewhat sloppy return to the mound Saturday was that it felt better than it looked.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 4, 2007
DUNEDIN - The best thing LHP Scott Kazmir could say about his somewhat sloppy return to the mound Saturday was that it felt better than it looked.
"Definitely," he said. "And I did get my work in."
Kazmir threw 41 pitches to eight Toronto batters, walking two and allowing a towering home run to Troy Glaus in an abbreviated 11/3-inning outing as the Devil Rays won 5-4 in six innings.
After being sidelined much of the second half of last season, including the final six weeks, with shoulder discomfort, the ace starter's status has been one of the most scrutinized spring issues. As he did through the progression from bullpen sessions to batting practice to last week's intrasquad game, Kazmir said he again felt strong and good. Great, actually.
"It felt like it was coming out of my hands free and easy, and I was hitting C Josh Paul in the mitt. ... Everything was closed and compact," he said. "It felt like I could rear back and throw it as hard as I wanted."
Manager Joe Maddon, more concerned with how Kazmir threw than how he did, considered the outing successful. Of the 41 pitches, there were 19 balls, nine fouls, seven called strikes, four swing-and-misses and two hits.
"I thought he was right around the zone, and some of those calls could have gone either way," Maddon said. "I thought he pitched well. His velocity was good. ... They hit a lot of foul balls and worked a lot of deep counts, which means to me, the ball has late life possibly in the hitting area, which is a good thing. I thought he was right there."
The Rays planned to have Kazmir work two innings or 40 pitches, but he needed 34 (including fastballs, sliders and changeups) to get through six batters in the first. "I was trying not to show them anything and maybe just get some fastballs across, but it didn't work out too well," he said. "I had to use everything I could just to get out of the inning."
As for how the box score line will look to others?
"It would be like, 'Wow, what happened?' " Kazmir said. "But I really don't feel it was like that."
HERE'S JONNY: Opposite-field home runs (off A.J. Burnett and Tomo Ohka) in his first two at-bats were impressive, but Jonny Gomes was just as excited to be back in the outfield, where he hadn't played since May 23 because of a right shoulder injury that required September surgery. "It's been a long time since I've brought my glove to the dugout," he said.
PITCHING IN: RHP Al Reyes was pleased with his quick one-inning return from elbow surgery that sidelined him since 2005. "It felt good to be out there again with big-league competition," he said. ... RHP Brian Stokes impressed Maddon by making more use of his breaking ball. ... Because rain shortened the game to six innings, Mitch Talbot, Andy Sonnanstine and Chris Seddon didn't get to pitch.
MISCELLANY: Maddon is a huge fan of QB Jake Plummer (and the proud owner of a signed football), so he was interested in the Bucs' moves: "We've got to get the Snake in town." ... INF candidate Brendan Harris had a two-run double. ... Playing centerfield, B.J. Upton got turned around on a fly ball that dropped for a double. ... Tickets are available for the March 13 dinner and induction of Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame at the Trop, with Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Wade Boggs among the guests; tickets are $99 and available by calling (727) 825-3348.