Tampa Bay's Kazmir feels good after rehab start, eyes May 3 return

Updated: April 18, 2008, 9:53 PM ET
Associated Press

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Rays ace Scott Kazmir felt good after his first minor league rehab start on Friday, and is on target to return to Tampa Bay on May 3.

The left-hander gave up one unearned run and one hit in three innings for Class A Vero Beach against the St. Lucie Mets. He struck out three and didn't walk a batter.

"I got all my pitches in, worked on all my pitches, and it felt good for the most part," said Kazmir, who has been sidelined because of a left elbow strain since Feb. 25. He reported no pain Friday.

Kazmir's first two pitches hit the dirt, even with Rays' catcher Dioner Navarro behind the plate, also making a rehab appearance. But the next three fastballs were for strikes, and he got out of the first inning after facing just three batters.

He threw 30 of 47 pitches for strikes. The only run against him was in the second inning, when St. Lucie's Luis Rivera doubled, advanced to third on an error, and scored on a fielder's choice.

The 24-year-old came back strong in the third inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced.

"I was just worried about my fastball command, and as the game went on, the last inning it felt great," Kazmir said.

Kazmir threw just 14 off-speed pitches, and his fastball topped out around 92 miles per hour.

"My game is working off the fastball, and I feel that's what I need to work on before I get back to the major leagues," Kazmir said.

He likely has two more rehab starts before his target return date. He'll pitch next for Vero Beach on Wednesday in Jupiter.

"It's frustrating," Kazmir said. "You see all my teammates out there already playing and you just want to go out there and contribute. I want to get out there as quick as possible."

Navarro, who sliced open his hand April 4 at Yankee Stadium, went 0-for-1 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch. He is scheduled to play again Saturday. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday and could rejoin Tampa Bay that day, when they open a three-game series against Toronto in Orlando.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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