Kazmir excited to join Rays for '08 debut

Kazmir excited to join Rays for '08 debut

BOSTON -- Scott Kazmir made a point of rising early Saturday morning after Friday night's marathon loss to the Red Sox. The left-hander had sound reasoning for doing so. He'll be making his first start of the season Sunday against the Red Sox, and he wanted to make sure he wouldn't have any trouble falling asleep.

Kazmir, who has been on the disabled list with a left elbow strain, made his third and final rehabilitation start Monday night, pitching for Triple-A Durham against Richmond. He allowed one run on three hits -- one of them was a home run -- had one walk and struck out three.

Now the reigning American League strikeout king will finally get his season under way.

"It feels like it's been forever," Kazmir said. "One month feels like an entire season. But I'm just excited to contribute to the team."

Kazmir returns to a different situation than any he's experienced with the Rays. The team has a winning record without him, so he'll be icing on the cake rather than being the cake.

"Everyone's been lights-out, to be honest," Kazmir said. "Part of me, you want to stand back, something good's going on. You don't want to mess anything up. But at the same time, you want to just go out there and be with your teammates, enjoy what we have going here and keep it going."

After Saturday night's defeat, Kazmir will be a welcome addition to the team Sunday.

Despite the fact Kazmir is making his first start of the season, and at Fenway Park, he does not believe he'll be too "amped up" for the game.

"No, I think I'll be all right," Kazmir said. "Fenway, I'll definitely have the adrenaline going. The atmosphere is always going to be there. So you're going to have to harness it a little bit.

"I'm just going to try and stay within myself like I try to do with every start. Being in Boston, you have to try and do a little bit extra. But I'm looking forward to it."

Kazmir has enjoyed success against the Red Sox at Fenway. He's 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 17 starts against the Red Sox and is 4-3 with a 2.73 ERA in nine career starts at Fenway. Nevertheless, he has a healthy respect for the Red Sox.

"This is a great team," Kazmir said. "You can't take anything lightly. All I want to do is just try to just feel comfortable here, feeling the love, you know. ... I just want to contribute as much as I can. ... Just go out there and do my part."

Kazmir will be on a pitch count.

"We talked about it and we're right at the 100-pitch mark," Kazmir said. "I had 85 pitches [the last time out]. I'm going to be right around that 100-pitch mark. ... I think it's all going to matter how I get through those innings. If I have to fight through three or four innings, battle through them, I might get cut short. But for the most part, hopefully, it will be smooth and I'll get my 100 pitches in."

Early weather reports forecast a 100 percent chance of rain Sunday. If the game is rained out, Kazmir will be Tuesday night's starter in Toronto. If Sunday's game is played, the weather could influence Kazmir's use.

"I think once he gets heated up he'll be fine," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think the biggest concern will be whether the game starts on time. Warming him up, sitting him down. Those kinds of things will be of great concern."

Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Kazmir went 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA at Fenway Park in 2007.

BOS: LHP Jon Lester (1-2, 4.31 ERA)
Lester is 1-0 with a 5.56 ERA in four career starts against the Rays.

Tidbits
As expected, the Rays optioned Justin Ruggiano to Triple-A Durham and activated Kazmir after Saturday's game. ... Cliff Floyd had to fly to Chicago for a family matter and did not serve as the designated hitter in an extended Spring Training game Saturday as expected. ... Akinori Iwamura has not made an error this season, making him one of two second basemen in the Major Leagues who have not yet made a miscue. Rays second basemen made 22 errors in 2007, a total that led the Major Leagues. Left fielder Carl Crawford and first baseman Carlos Pena have not made an error this season, either.

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Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 4-1, 4.42) at Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, 3-2, 4.82), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Rays (Matt Garza, 1-0, 6.16) at Blue Jays (TBD), 7:07 p.m. ET

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