Kazmir sees progress late in rehab

Kazmir sees progress late in rehab

ST. PETERSBURG -- Scott Kazmir pitched in his second and final live bullpen session prior to Friday night's game, and the injured lefty will pitch in an extended Spring Training game on Tuesday.

When the Rays' ace initially injured his throwing elbow in an intrasquad game Feb. 25, Kazmir never thought he would still be sidelined mid-April.

"I thought after I got evaluated by a trainer, it was going to be maybe a week," he said.

Now a month and a half later, the southpaw is finally in the late stages of his scheduled rehab. Kazmir will throw at the Rays' Minor League complex to get some controlled innings at first, and will then pitch in a Minor League game. The Rays are unclear on how exactly how many extended Spring Training starts Kazmir will need before he throws in the Minors.

The lefty looked strong Friday, throwing around 75 pitches, including 46 to Rays batters off the mound at Tropicana Field. Manager Joe Maddon said Kazmir looked ready and is "champing at the bit" for his return.

"It's so boring," Kazmir said of the schedule he is on now. "I just want to help out the team. And you see the guys on TV playing every day, and here now, and you want to be a part of it. I'm just looking forward to getting back out there."

From the looks of things, that day isn't so far down the road. Kazmir feels he is throwing to about 95 percent of his regular potential, and he understands the Rays' precautions for his cautious rehab schedule.

The club kept Kazmir on a slower recovery plan to make sure he was properly healed, preferring their ace miss a few starts early and come back full throttle, rather than deal with a midseason injury.

"That's how it was explained to me," he said.

Kazmir throwing off the mound wasn't the only action from the Rays' disabled list. Dioner Navarro, who has been sidelined with lacerations on his throwing hand, was behind the plate for the first time since his injury. Rocco Baldelli, who is on the 60-day DL, was one of the batters in the box against Kazmir. Maddon told the media it was Baldelli's suggestion, and although there have been no drastic changes in Baldelli's status -- he has been diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder -- the Rays are continuing to evaluate him on a daily basis.

Willy Aybar is also being evaluated on a daily basis, although his situation is more clear-cut than Baldelli's. Aybar was scratched from Thursday's game and was not in Friday's lineup, sparking questions about the third baseman's seemingly minor hamstring injury. Maddon said Aybar has been playing hurt, and the soreness in his left hamstring is becoming an increasing concern.

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.