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Coaches keeping close eye on Kazmir's labors

The most telling statistic of Scott Kazmir's season isn't his win total or his strikeouts or his ERA; it's the number of pitches he has thrown.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published June 25, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - The most telling statistic of Rays LHP Scott Kazmir's season isn't his win total or his strikeouts or his ERA; it's the number of pitches he has thrown.

After his 116-pitch outing Friday night, Kazmir led the AL in pitches thrown with 1, 734 and led the majors with 18.1 pitches per inning. Friday marked the third time in his past four starts that he threw at least 114 pitches.

Considering the care they've given their prized 23-year-old left-hander - last season the team shut him down for the final six weeks of the season with shoulder soreness - manager Joe Maddon said he is keeping an eye on Kazmir even though it's only 16 starts into the season. During last season's All-Star first half, Kazmir pitched 1152/3 innings, then 29 in the second half.

"I'm there every moment, " Maddon said. "I've really been paying attention to that. The threat would be to let him go 130 pitches. ... He's pitched a lot between the 105 and 115 range and I'm really watching. I don't see him struggle to throw the ball. I don't see that little extra effort at the end that I don't want to see."

Maddon can look back to last season, when the team took notice when Kazmir altered his delivery, a sign he was straining. Maddon said he also keeps tabs on Kazmir's velocity, which has remained in the 90 to 93 mph range.

"I'm looking when he's between 110 and 117, how's he doing it, " Maddon said. "Is there a relative ease to the way he's throwing the ball? To this point I'm saying yes."

KNOW YOUR ROLE: Holding a lead heading into the late innings for the second straight day, Maddon resorted to newcomer Jay Witasick in the seventh inning and Gary Glover to pitch the eighth, a sign that he's becoming comfortable with those relievers in those roles along with Al Reyes as the closer.

That would leave groundball pitcher Shawn Camp and LH Casey Fossum for situational duties and Brian Stokes and Jason Hammel as long relievers.

"If we can put this together and gain some consistency there, " Maddon said. "That's what I'm trying to do right now."

MISCELLANY: The Rays' 28 homers in interleague play tied Toronto for most in the AL. ... Fourteen of SS Brendan Harris' hits in June have gone for extra bases (eight doubles, one triple, five home runs). ... The team is 16-9 in series finales and 12-9 in the third game of a series. ... It also has won eight of its past 10 day games. ... The Dodgers didn't strand a runner in the fourth inning, snapping a streak of 15 innings with at least one runner left on base. ... Triple-A Durham RHP Jeff Niemann allowed one run on six hits with three strikeouts and one walk through 61/3 innings Sunday, running his record to 8-4.