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Rays ace Kazmir begins to bring back the heat

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 6, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG -- Before LHP Scott Kazmir's start Saturday, Rays manager Joe Maddon couldn't pinpoint why his velocity was down his past two outings.

"I agree," Maddon said. "But I think he's pitching better. I don't know if it's a growth moment. I have no concern because he looks fine to me."

But in Saturday's 12-inning 3-2 win over Oakland, Maddon saw his 23-year-old ace hit 94 mph frequently and predominantly throw his fastball. Kazmir struck out eight and allowed one run on five hits but left after six because he had thrown 105 pitches. Kazmir said it was a step forward.

"I'm still getting my arm strength back to tell you the truth," Kazmir said. "I'm the type of guy who as the season goes along I get stronger. I don't want to have to make them have to hit into an out. I want to be able to attack them and play my game."

Said Rays 3B Ty Wigginton: "Kazmir was unbelievable from the get-go, and obviously his performance is going to be overshadowed."

RESTING REYES: Maddon still doesn't know when he will use closer Al Reyes three consecutive days, but he knows Friday night wasn't the right time.

Reyes, who has converted all 10 save opportunities and owns a 1.20 ERA but is coming off his second Tommy John surgery, worked Wednesday and Thursday, and Maddon remains cautious about overworking him. He pitched a scoreless inning Saturday.

"For right now that would be a very selfish thing on my part to push him like that," Maddon said.

Maddon said he will rely on trainers' reports and his instincts, but more so on conversations with Reyes.

INJURY REPORT: The Rays shut down 2005 first-round pick and Class A Columbus RHP Wade Townsend, placing him on the disabled list with right forearm fatigue.

Townsend, who missed the 2006 season after Tommy John surgery, was 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 27 innings. Mitch Lukevics, Rays director of minor league operations, said the move was precautionary and Townsend would miss two starts.

Also, 1B/DH Greg Norton, on rehab at Double-A Montgomery, was scratched from the lineup Saturday with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.

MINOR MATTERS: Class A Vero Beach RHP Wade Davis was dominating in his second no-hitter in 10 months Friday, Vero Beach manager Joe Szekely said. The seven-inning no-hitter was in the second game of a doubleheader.

"There wasn't a hard-hit ball all day," Szekely said. "There were only two baserunners, and we threw one out, so he didn't work out of the stretch too much. The most impressive thing was that he was working at 91-94 and then when he went to the seventh he was 93-95. He smelled it."

MISCELLANY: Rays 2B B.J. Upton extended his season-high hitting streak to eight games and retained the AL batting lead at .376. ... Upton entered Saturday also leading the AL in strikeouts 32, making it just the third day in the past 42 years when a player led the league in those two categories. ... The Rays are 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series. ... With a LHP starting, Jorge Cantu made his second start at 1B, going 1-for-4.

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.