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Kazmir's pitch count worries behind him

Kazmir frets not about pitch count

CHICAGO -- What Joe Maddon did in Sunday night's game against Texas appeared to be a little thing, but ultimately, it could end up paying rich dividends with Scott Kazmir, who will be making his 21st start of the season Saturday night against the White Sox.

Entering Sunday night's game, the 24-year-old left-hander had been struggling with his mechanics and got caught up spending a lot of time worrying about reaching his pitch count and having to leave the game early.

Against the Rangers, Maddon allowed Kazmir to continue pitching through six innings, even though his pitch count had reached a level where he would normally have been yanked. Kazmir left after six innings and 114 pitches, carrying with him his ninth win of the season along with some peace of mind. Now, he hopes his days of worrying about mechanics and pitch counts are behind him.

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"I really don't even want to talk about [mechanics or pitch counts], you know," Kazmir said. "I just want to go out there and have fun. I feel like everything feels good. I don't have to worry about anything ... [I] can go out there and just have fun out there."

In Kazmir's previous four starts prior to Sunday's win, he had not pitched more than five innings. Maddon believes Sunday's 114-pitch effort could have a "positive impact" on Kazmir.

"So much of this game, what we do here, is all what we're thinking," Maddon said. "So, if he's thinking better going into this next game, that could make all the difference in the world. Because physically he's throwing the ball great, fastball velocity, again, his slider's still not as effective as maybe it had been, changeup is very good. So it's all about how he feels; his confidence. By giving him that extra inning and having it turn out as it did, I like to think it's going to help him [Saturday]."

Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (9-6, 3.21 ERA)
Kazmir picked up his ninth win of the season on Sunday night when he held the Rangers to two runs on four hits, walking four and striking out seven. The 24-year-old left-hander has struggled with his mechanics lately and has worked all season with little luck to gain command of his slider, which has historically been his best pitch. Without his slider, Kazmir has relied primarily on a fastball-changeup combination. He is 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA in four career starts against the White Sox.

CWS: RHP Javier Vazquez (10-10, 4.34 ERA)
On Sunday, for the second straight trip to the mound, Vazquez worked eight innings and dazzled the opposition. The right-hander did not allow a run against Oakland until the eighth inning, ending a stretch of 15 straight scoreless innings. He struck out eight and didn't issue a walk, giving up four hits in total. Vazquez has yielded a mere nine hits over his past two starts. He has a 1-1 record with a 2.70 ERA against the Rays this year, and holds a 6-4 record and a 4.11 ERA in 12 home starts this season.

Tidbits
Maddon and company have been discussing which of the organization's Minor Leaguers will become September callups and said they have "an idea about what we're going to do." He does not like having a full clubhouse and noted that only the players they believe can help them in certain situations will get the call. ... Saturday afternoon's Rays-White Sox game will be only the third time in club history the Rays have been featured as the FOX Game of the Week. ... The Rays have five pitchers age 26 or younger who have made 20 starts each; they are only the fourth team in Major League history to achieve this, along with the 1984 Red Sox, 1969 Royals and 1968 Athletics.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• WHNZ 1250, WGES 680 (Español)

Up next
• Sunday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 13-6, 4.37) at White Sox (Mark Buehrle, 11-10, 3.91), 2:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Rays (James Shields, 11-7, 3.68) vs. Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 15-9, 2.68), 7:10 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.

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