Kazmir's return date remains murky

Kazmir's return date remains murky

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have been taking it slow with injured starter Scott Kazmir, and manager Joe Maddon said Monday may have featured the first truly positive step toward recovery from a strained quadriceps that has hobbled the hurler since May 21.

Maddon said he and the 25-year-old left-hander sat down and went over how to properly rehabilitate as well as regain his form on the mound. Before the injury, Kazmir had a nightmarish 7.69 ERA and a .316 opponents' batting average in nine starts this season.

"We've sat down and we really analyzed everything," Maddon said. "We went over all the information we could gather. We tried to conclude and come up with a game plan."

Kazmir was playing catch before Monday's game vs. Kansas City, and he said that he was feeling fine.

The lefty's rehab process had been slow, and it seems like the Rays are going to take every precaution to ensure Kazmir, a two-time All-Star, is back to the proper form. Maddon said now Kazmir will begin drill work and some mound work, but he offered no definite timetable for his return. The southpaw is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Friday.

"Just try to rebuild muscle memory in certain areas and just keep moving from there," Maddon said. "There were some mechanical issues that needed to be addressed, and we're addressing them right now. I feel pretty good about it."

Kazmir gave up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings to Oakland on May 20, marking his second consecutive start with seven runs allowed. He was placed on the DL two days later, and rookie David Price has taken his spot in the rotation.

Maddon, however, knows how essential a healthy Kazmir is to Tampa Bay's staff. In just four seasons with the Rays, he's already the club's all-time leader in wins, innings, strikeouts, ERA and quality starts.

"I'm encouraged by our talk today and what we've got going on," Maddon said. "I feel really good about that."

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