tampabay.com

Despite improved speed, Kazmir still lacking control

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 18, 2007


LAKE BUENA VISTA - The good news for LHP Scott Kazmir in the Rays' 8-6 10-inning win over Texas on Thursday was that he finally felt he had his fastball velocity and his slider breaking at their best. The bad news was that he couldn't harness it - and ended up pitching himself out of the game.

Kazmir left the Rays' series finale at the Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex after just four innings, battling his control all night while issuing six walks, tying his career high, to go along with his nine strikeouts.

"I felt really good," Kazmir said. "I guess I was just in strikeout mode. I wasn't worried about throwing quality pitches. It's the first time it actually felt that the ball was live and I was throwing everything with good action. The down and away fastball is just something I've got to work on."

Kazmir's fastball was routinely in the 93, 94 mph range and his slider had Rangers batters swinging into the dirt, but he threw 109 pitches - including a 43-pitch fourth inning.

Said manager Joe Maddon: "I just couldn't let him stay out there any longer."

"I've never had a 43-pitch inning before, that's crazy" Kazmir said. "I've got the stuff. Now I just need to harness it. ... I just wanted to go after everyone, and I fell behind."

Over his past six starts, Kazmir has gone seven innings just once and averaged 107 pitches in those outings.

ROCCO TO DL: Despite placing CF Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day disabled list, an MRI exam on his left hamstring revealed only a moderate strain. But Baldelli could still miss up to six weeks.

To fill the roster spot, they activated DH/1B Greg Norton, who will make his first start of the season in tonight's game at DH. Norton returned Sunday from a seven-game rehab trip in Double-A Montgomery but is still experiencing soreness in surgically repaired right knee.

Maddon said he would like to avoid playing Norton back-to-back days, even as DH. Before going to Montgomery, Norton expressed that he didn't feel good about his swing after extended spring training.

"I'm not saying I'm back to where I was last year," Norton said, "but I think what was encouraging yesterday was coming back and hitting over at the complex is that my swing was a lot shorter."

THAT TIME AGAIN: The Rays will start interleague play tonight with the first of three games against the Marlins at Tropicana Field. The Rays are 67-93 in interleague play, the third-worst record in the majors. However, Tampa Bay was 11-7 against the NL last season, its second-best record in interleague.

MINOR MATTERS: Montgomery 3B Evan Longoria returned to the starting lineup after missing one game when he was hit by a pitch on his left elbow. He was 1-for-4. ... At Triple-A Durham, LHP J.P. Howell struck out 10 batters in six innings, allowing three runs - one earned - on two hits.

MISCELLANY: Winning pitcher Gary Glover picked up his first victory since 2005 with Milwaukee. ... Maddon said he will likely keep B.J. Upton as the team's primary second baseman and limit using him in centerfield since Baldelli is hurt. ... RHP Al Reyes pitched in his fifth straight game and the fifth time in six days.