For starters, Rays vs Nats; Burrell back at DH
Update 5:57 . Maddon was encouraged with how LHP Scott Kazmir looked during his simulated game Friday, saying Kazmir is ready for the next step - a start with Class A Charlotte next week - and then he'll get-revaluated.
"He threw the ball well," Maddon said. "His delivery looked really good, he's healthy. He looked good."
The key, Maddon said, is getting Kazmir's arm strength back up, with the fear that if they do too much, too soon, that could lead to injury. So Maddon said Kazmir will move up to 60-70 pitches in his next start, and then go from there, with him possibly needing two or three starts before he rejoins the Rays.
"We've gotta be really careful how we bring him back, cause i thought he loked pretty darn good," Maddon said.
In other news, Burrell is indeed back, and Maddon would eventually like to move him back to the fifth spot in the order, but for now, Ben Zobrist is hitting well behind Carlos Pena, and now has Burrell to protect him too.
As far as injury news, LHP Brian Shouse has been given permission to start playing catch, but no further updates. RHP Chad Bradford will continue his rehab assignment in Montgomery (he and his wife recently had a baby).
And Maddon said there's no real update on Shawn Riggans, who caught Kazmir in today's simulated game, but is still ways away from returning.
Update 4:32 DH Pat Burrell is back in the lineup as designated hitter, and will bat sixth against the Nationals.
Burrell, activated from the disabled list (neck strain), had missed 29 games.
Update: 2:53: LHP Scott Kazmir has thrown two innings so far in his simulated game, and looks pretty good.
Kazmir has thrown 29 pitches, and is throwing strikes, making them put the ball in play. By rough count, he's recorded eight outs, and given up a couple hits.
One funny moment., Joe Dillon fouled a ball off his left leg (he's fine). After he walked it off, he went over and put on a catcher's left shin guard before taking his next at-bat.
It's always tough to judge how well a pitcher is doing in these kind of workouts, but we'll let you know what Kazmir thinks - as well as Maddon - later here on the blog.
The Rays host the Nationals to open a three-game interleague series tonight, but Tropicana Field is already buzzing with acrtivity as LHP Scott Kazmir - rehabbing from a right quad strain (and working through mechanics) - is throwing a simulated game.
If this goes well, Kazmir will then likely move to a minor league rehab assignment, the next step in him rejoining the Rays rotation.
With pitching coach Jim Hickey, manager Joe Maddon and executive VP Andrew Friedman watching, Kazmir is facing Rays hitters Gabe Kapler, Reid Brignac and Joe Dillon.
Backup C Shawn Riggans (also on the DL), is catching.
Tonight also marks the return of ex-Ray Elijah Dukes, who is with the Nats. And, of course, the return of DH Pat Burrell, who has been reactivated from the DL after missing 29 games due to a neck strain.
- JOE SMITH