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Notes: Reflecting on end of skid

Notes: Reflecting on end of skid

KANSAS CITY -- Shawn Camp and J.P. Howell know more about losing streaks than they want to. The two Devil Rays pitchers suffered through the Royals' 19-game losing streak in 2005.

Camp said the Devil Rays' 11-game skid, which ended on Friday, was completely different than the Royals' streak, which ended two shy of tying the American League record.

"It seems like when I was here, everybody was focusing on the 19-game losing streak," Camp said on Saturday. "As opposed to here, we're focused on just going out and winning the game. When I look back at '05, we were playing just bad baseball. I think we were confused. There, every game, nothing worked on any cylinders. Either the pitching was off or the hitting was off. It was, 'How are we going to lose tonight?'

"Here we lost 11, but we knew we were playing well enough to snap out of it. Of the 11 games, I can't tell you any of the games that we were out of except the Boston game [15-4 loss on Thursday]. This team can win 11 in a row."

Howell was not around for all 19 losses with the Royals, as he was sent back to the Minors during the streak. He endured all 11 consecutive defeats with the Devil Rays.

"You see four and say, 'All right, it happens -- a four-game losing streak. Let's get the one tomorrow,'" Howell said. "Then five and you start feeling it, and then six. Then it's, man, you're trying to be perfect, try to do everything too much."

"We were talking about that, going through the rotation and nobody getting a win. You start pressing, you start trying too hard. In order for me to be good, I've got to be loose. I can't be tight, trying to conquer something that is out of my hands. Against Cleveland and Boston, I was holding the ball a little firm, my leg kick a little faster. That's not me.

"Guys were swinging a little harder. You've got to take it down a notch instead of trying to step it up a notch. You've got to slow it down to your pace; make it the pace you want. The other teams have slowed it down, and we're going too fast. I'm glad it is over. You can tell it is over. Everybody is talking. There was no noise in here yesterday -- really the past several days."

Rotation set: Manager Joe Maddon said his rotation after the All-Star break, in order, would be James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson for a four-game series against the Yankees.

After an off-day on July 16, Maddon said he would start the same four.

"We don't need a fifth starter the first time through," Maddon said.

He said Howell would be skipped and used out of the bullpen. Howell's next start is penciled in for July 21 during a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

"I like keeping those three guys [Shields, Kazmir and Sonnanstine] connected," Maddon said. "Beyond that, we think Jackson has made more progress than J.P. at this point, so we wanted to put Jack at the back side. It's not much more complicated than that."

The starter for the other game of the doubleheader is still up in the air. Jason Hammel, who made nine starts last year, is a candidate, but Maddon prefers him in the bullpen.

"We talked about that, but I think he is too valuable to take out of the nightly mix," Maddon said. "I really have a lot of confidence in him. I don't want to lose him out of the mix and just pigeonhole him for that one day."

Upton, Riggans updates: B.J. Upton went 1-for-2 with a walk on Friday for Class A Vero Beach in a 5-0 loss to Palm Beach. Upton, who went on the disabled list June 14 with a left quad strain, is on target to be activated on Thursday.

Shawn Riggans went 0-for-4 as the Vero Beach designated hitter. Riggans went on the DL on June 4 with right elbow tendinitis.

"Riggans is getting closer," Maddon said. "We don't have a real finish line drawn up for him yet."

Catcher Josh Paul, who is on the 60-day DL with a left elbow strain, should be ready to begin a rehab assignment immediately after the All-Star break.

Hickey back: Pitching coach Jim Hickey, who had missed 12 games after having surgery to repair a detached right retina, returned to the team.

How does he look?

"Beat up," Maddon said. "Like George Chuvalo following the first [Muhammad] Ali fight."

Minor League pitching coordinator Dick Bosman filled in during Hickey's absence.

"He's done a great job since he's been here," Maddon said. "He's been on top of things. He's great for our kids. He gets the little things done. He's very impressive. We're very fortunate to have him. He's very insightful. A lot of these guys have been his babies for awhile."

On deck: Kazmir and Jorge De La Rosa will start Sunday at 2:10 p.m. ET in the final game before the All-Star break.

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

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