tampabay.com

Navarro injured on March 8 again

By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 9, 2007


BRADENTON - Dioner Navarro has already decided he's not playing next March 8.

A year to the day after pulling his right hamstring in a spring training game for the Dodgers, Navarro sustained a mild strain of his left hamstring trying to score from first in the seventh inning of Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Pirates.

The initial diagnosis was encouraging, but the Rays don't know yet how long their starting catcher will be sidelined. It will probably be at least a week.

"We have to wait a few days to see how bad it is; I don't think it's that bad," Navarro said. "When something like this happens, it's tough because there's nothing you can do about it. I have to work hard, get ready and don't rush it. If it gets worse, we're talking about a long time. I have to take whatever time it takes me to get ready for the season."

Backup candidates Josh Paul and Shawn Riggans will get more playing time.

Last year, Navarro missed more than three weeks after being injured running to first. He doesn't plan to take any chances next year. "I'm calling in sick," he said.

KAZ OKAY: LHP Scott Kazmir felt fine and thought he threw well but had some problems with his mechanics during a 51-pitch, three-inning outing, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks.

Kazmir, who missed the final six weeks of last season with shoulder discomfort, said he felt less comfortable Thursday than in his first start on Saturday, specifically with how his front foot was landing.

"I just have to get back in rhythm with my mechanics," he said. "It will all come together. Some pitches I could just go, 'Okay, there it is,' but right now, it's a little tough to duplicate with not pitching in a while."

FIRST AT SECOND: Ty Wigginton starts at second base tonight for the second time in three days, a further indication Jorge Cantu has to convince the team he deserves to keep his job. "It's a legitimate audition," manager Joe Maddon said. "We want to see how he looks out there, we want to see how it fits. A lot of it depends on what other guys are doing, like the first basemen and how they are coming along."

"I don't know what the plan is," Cantu said. "I'm working hard. If I don't get the opportunity, I'll keep working hard."

BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY: Already in the spring, the Rays have hired a performance coach, held yoga classes and sampled a high-tech video motion-capturing and analysis system. Today, they are bringing in a nutritionist, Tampa-based dietitian Cynthia Sass, to address the team. "It's an area we want to get more involved in with our players," Maddon said. "As an athlete with all the training devices that are available to us, proper eating is one of them, and it's something everyone can control."

PITCHING IN: LHP Casey Fossum, recovering from shoulder surgery, had another impressive batting practice outing Thursday and if all feels well will make his exhibition debut Monday. ... LHP Jon Switzer could be back Sunday or Monday after getting only a bruise and a scare when he was hit on the right wrist by a batted ball Wednesday. "I'm pretty lucky actually," Switzer said. "I had a little balloon on the wrist. A quarter inch one way or the other and it could have been a lot worse." ... RHP Mitch Talbot said he was "a little overexcited" in his one-hit, two-walk one-inning debut. ... RHP Jeff Niemann had a tough two innings, allowing five hits and a walk.

MISCELLANY: The first roster cut is "coming up shortly" but won't be deep, Maddon said. ... Most of the regulars will play against the Yankees tonight, but with two games Saturday, Maddon is trying not to overuse anyone.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or 727 893-8801.