Notes: Rays careful with Kazmir

Notes: Rays cautious with Kazmir

ST. PETERSBURG -- Scott Kazmir's season ended unceremoniously Monday night when the Rays decided there was nothing to gain by having their ace pitch again this season.

Kazmir, who went on the disabled list twice in the second half with rotator cuff inflammation and later shoulder stiffness, said he felt fine after throwing 35 to 40 tosses prior to Monday night's game. But Rays manager Joe Maddon and Kazmir both agreed ending his season was the prudent move.

Maddon said the only reason he considered taking a chance of having Kazmir pitch before the end of the season was so the youngster could have some peace of mind about his health throughout the offseason.

"[I] spoke to him, [and he] actually felt really good and that was part of it too," Maddon said. "He felt so good that he thought he does not have to pitch to prove to himself he'll be fine next spring. So I took that as a good thing because I did not want to rush him back just to pitch -- just to find out that he is OK."

Kazmir finished the season with a 10-8 record and a 3.24 ERA, including a two-hit shutout against the Red Sox and an appearance in the All-Star Game as the Rays representative.

"It's something where I feel like I got enough out of this year to take stuff into next year," Kazmir said. "There are a lot of things I've learned this year, so I'm not really worried about making that last start. It's just something you'd like to [do], but you don't want to rush into it to get yourself ready to start and everything like that. I feel confident I'll be able to get it going and workout in the offseason and get it going for Spring Training."

Kazmir plans to remain with the team while he begins his offseason conditioning.

"I'm already pretty much starting my offseason workout program," Kazmir said. "Working out on my rotator cuff, shoulder, back, just strengthening up everything. Just getting into my offseason program, where I'm working on getting stronger."

Kazmir made it clear the injury would not have prevented him from pitching had the team been in a pennant race.

"I told them that at the very beginning," Kazmir said. "This right here is something I'd easily be able to go through in a pennant race. I'd want the ball every five days. It's something we had the luxury of taking a little more time than you would otherwise."

Avoiding 100 losses: No team wants to lose games, and the Rays are no different, but Maddon said the possibility of this year's team losing 100 games is not something keeping him up nights.

"I'm really not concerned about that at all," Maddon said. "Not in the least. It's just something to talk about. It really doesn't mean anything to me, personally. I don't want it to mean anything as a group."

Maddon explained that the organization has implemented a lot of changes under the new regime, trying to establish the desired organizational setup to make the club a winner.

"I like a lot of what's going on," Maddon said. "There's no way I'm going to attempt to evaluate the season in terms of number of wins and losses. We're just trying to build on this right now and I've seen a lot of good stuff that I want to focus on."

In addition to the possibility of losing 100 games, the Rays entered Monday night's action with a record of 57-92, which gives the Rays the worst record in baseball, slightly worse than the Royals at 58-92. Maddon said Kansas City is not his focus, either.

"I want to win today," Maddon said. "Let's go about it one day at a time. If we do things properly, we won't have 100 losses; if we don't, we shall. [I] just want to continue every day to try and get the message out there to do everything right. And finish these games out and win these games one at a time.

"It's not about Kansas City, it's not about the Yankees, it's not about Boston, it's not about anybody. It's about us. We've got to compare ourselves to ourselves to get better. And as long as we stay with tunnel vision, in a good way, we'll get better."

The Rays have had a lot of bad luck in the injury department this season, but Maddon did not want to play the "what if" game.

"I honestly don't play that game," Maddon said. "You know what you've got. And you know what you've got on a daily basis. And you work with that every day. We're going to continue to get better. I'm not disheartened. I'm not discouraged. I'm not just anything. It's a number. As long as we're better today than we were a month ago, I'm good."

This and that: The Rays will host the Baseball! ¡Béisbol! (TM) exhibition in Tropicana Field's CenterField Street from Sept. 19-25, a panel exhibit commemorating Latino baseball, the game's Latino stars and the stories of baseball-crazy Latin American countries. ... Rocco Baldelli and Greg Norton are tied for the fourth best average in the American League since Aug. 1 (they rank eighth overall).

Coming up: The Rays will play the second game of their three-game series against the Orioles Tuesday night at Tropicana Field in a 7:15 contest. Right-hander Jason Hammel (0-3, 6.53 ERA) will start for the Rays and will be opposed by left-hander Adam Loewen (5-5, 5.31 ERA).

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.