CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Notes: Kazmir still shedding rust

Notes: Kazmir still shedding rust

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Devil Rays fans and coaches are curious about the strength of Scott Kazmir's shoulder, but the left-hander was more concerned with his swing on Thursday.

Kazmir tossed three innings in his longest stint of the spring, striking out two and walking two against Pittsburgh in the Rays' 5-2 loss, but he left more impressed with his one at-bat. Kazmir, who is 0-for-4 at the plate in his career, launched a deep fly ball on the third pitch he saw from Pirates starter Shane Youman. The ball nearly reached the warning track in left-center, 370 feet from home plate.

"The first one, I tried to ambush a little bit; the second one, I had to see it; and the third one, I had to give it all I got," said Kazmir, who last registered a hit in Spring Training 2006, at McKechnie Field against the Pirates' Zach Duke.

On the mound, Kazmir worked through an easy first inning, getting Luis Matos on a fly out and Jack Wilson on a weak check swing that third baseman Akinori Iwamura played. His blazing fastball overpowered Jose Castillo on the first pitch before the Pirates third baseman fouled off three straight heaters. Kazmir turned to his slider to strike out Castillo on a half-hearted swing to end the inning.

"I just have to get back in my rhythm," Kazmir said. "With some pitches, I just go, 'OK, there it is.' But, it's pretty tough to duplicate, not having pitched in a while."

The second inning started strong, as Kazmir shattered the bat of first baseman Adam LaRoche, but the ball fell in for an opposite-field single. The situation deteriorated from there, as Xavier Nady drove a ball to the warning track in right, and Andrew McCutchen walked on five pitches. Jose Hernandez singled to load the bases, and Humberto Cota knocked in two with a single to right before Kazmir retired the next two batters to end the threat.

"I felt good arm-wise, but the mechanics were a little rusty," said Kazmir, who threw 51 pitches. "My land foot, I was a little stiff with it. It was kind of pushing me back instead of going forward with it."

Kazmir didn't pitch after Aug. 22 last season due to a stiff shoulder. The natural rust from the layoff has led him to do dry drills, such as repeatedly lifting his front leg to simulate the start of his motion. He learned the technique from Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, and he hopes it will smooth out his delivery.

"It's something that once you have that down, you feel like you can just sit up there," Kazmir said. "That's huge for a pitcher. You can be able to drive forward with everything. I can tell, right now, I'm standing with my leg lifted and my eyes closed, and I'm falling all over the place."

Kazmir's next scheduled start will be Tuesday vs. the Phillies at Progress Energy Park, when the left-hander expects to pitch four innings.

The Ides of March: For the second spring in a row, Dioner Navarro is battling a hamstring strain. On Thursday, the Rays catcher attempted to score on B.J. Upton's double to center, but he pulled up lame a few feet from home plate. Team trainers diagnosed Navarro with a mild strain of his left hamstring, which he'll likely have to rest for at least the next two days.

"Right between third base and home plate, I felt a little pinch," Navarro said. "I got another step and I felt it harder."

Navarro walked off the field under his own power and was expected to undergo more tests back at the team's complex to ascertain the severity of the strain.

"The fact that he walked out is good," manager Joe Maddon said. "He'd be on crutches for worse things."

Navarro missed 3 1/2 weeks of Spring Training with the Dodgers last year when he strained his right hamstring running down the line in a game in Lake Buena Vista against the Braves. Coincidentally, that injury also happened on March 8.

"I'm calling in sick next year," Navarro said.

Fossum looking good: Left-hander Casey Fossum may soon be ready to make his first Spring Training appearance. Throwing a bullpen session at the team complex on Thursday, Fossum impressed Maddon, who stayed behind to personally watch Fossum throw.

"Velocity looks pretty normal, actually might be even better," Maddon said. "He feels very good about it."

Barring a setback, Fossum, who spent the final month of the 2006 season sidelined before undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason, should make his first appearance of the Grapefruit League on Monday, when the Rays host the American League champion Detroit Tigers at Progress Energy Park.

Fossum threw approximately 40-50 pitches on Thursday, according to Maddon, after throwing 80 pitches in a bullpen session Monday, followed by some soft tossing Tuesday.

"He looks like he's on track for the opening week of the season," Maddon said.

Fossum finished 2006 at 6-6 with a 5.33 ERA in 25 starts.

Eat right: The Rays will hold a team meeting with a nutritionist on Friday to discuss proper eating habits. She's already met with the Phillies last month, and Maddon hopes the wisdom could help the Rays.

"We've heard nothing but rave reviews, and this is an area we want to get more involved in with our players," Maddon said. "A lot of times, nutritional information is brought up and ... it's pushed to the side. I think as an athlete, with all of the other training advice that's available to us, proper eating is one of them. And it's something everybody can control."

With a young group such as the Rays, conditioning isn't a huge concern. However, maintaining a balanced diet could be something to aid the club now and in the future.

"We'll be given information that can prolong their careers," said Maddon, who joked he needed the information most.

The hard part will be hiding the notorious amount of candy that litters the tables around the Rays' clubhouse.

"I think we already know what's better for us, but maybe if an expert tells us it will actually sink in," Maddon said.

This and that: After getting hit on his right wrist on Wednesday, left-hander Jon Switzer probably won't pitch again until Sunday or Monday, according to Maddon. ... Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes and Upton highlight the group expected to travel to Saturday's split-squad game in Fort Myers against the Twins. The rest of the team will host the Phillies at Progress Energy Park in a 1:05 p.m. ET start. ... By Monday, Maddon said he expects his regulars to be getting three at-bats every game. They'll also see more back-to-back games to keep their preparation on schedule for the start of the season. However, with the "bare minimum" in camp, Maddon said there won't be many cuts coming soon.

Up next: The Devil Rays make their first trip across the Bay to face the Yankees in a primetime clash on Friday. Right-hander Tim Corcoran will start for Tampa Bay in the 7:15 p.m. game against Yankees righty Carl Pavano. The Rays will try to avenge the 3-1 loss to New York in their Grapefruit League opener on March 2. After Corcoran, J.P. Howell, Jae Kuk Ryu, Al Reyes and Gary Glover are scheduled to throw for Tampa Bay.

Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{}
{}