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Ex-Tampa Bay Ray Scott Kazmir says he should have edge in first meeting with former team

LOSING THE HANDLE: Rays third baseman Evan Longoria drops the throw from centerfielder Sean Rodriguez, allowing Erick Aybar to reach third base safely on Bobby Abreu’s single in the first inning. Aybar scored on Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly.

Associated Press

LOSING THE HANDLE: Rays third baseman Evan Longoria drops the throw from centerfielder Sean Rodriguez, allowing Erick Aybar to reach third base safely on Bobby Abreu’s single in the first inning. Aybar scored on Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The circumstances are going to be a bit weird; that, all parties agree.

But once Scott Kazmir and his former Rays teammates get past the awkward glances tonight in his first game against his former team and get down to pitching and hitting, there is a question of who, if anyone, should have the advantage.

The Rays, who would figure to know the strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities of their longtime lefty better than anyone?

Or Kazmir, who knows what they know about him, and knows their hitters from seeing them up close over parts of six seasons with them?

"No one has the advantage," Kazmir said Monday, then quickly amended it. "I'd like to say I have the advantage. They've seen me, I've seen them, there's no surprises. They know the scouting report, I know the scouting report, it's just a matter of executing."

Or is it?

"You think you know a little bit about him; I've seen him pitch so much," veteran LF Carl Crawford said. "But you know things probably change because he's with a different pitching coach (though it's former Rays coach Mike Butcher), a different organization and they probably have a different way of pitching. So I've got to watch the video and see if he's still doing stuff the same."

Kazmir said things are different, and even though his numbers aren't good — 2-2, 7.11 — that yet another change in his mechanics, going to more of a hands-over-his-head windup, has made his pitches sharper.

Kazmir, who visited with some of his old mates on Sunday night when they arrived in SoCal, said he is looking forward to the opportunity, and the challenge of keeping a straight face.

"I'm going to concentrate just on the glove," he said. "It's going to be tough to kind of keep your focus when you have all your friends going up there trying to get a hit off you."

"I think it should be fun," Crawford said. "I think everybody is looking forward to it because he played with us and we know him. We know he's probably going to want to beat us."

UPTON OUT: CF B.J. Upton missed Monday's game to fly back to Tampa for the birth of his first child but is expected back tonight, manager Joe Maddon said. Upton left for Tampa on Sunday night shortly after the Rays arrived in SoCal but was about an hour late for the birth of his son, Riley Emanuel.

Without Upton, Maddon opted to have Sean Rodriguez, the former Angel, make his first career start in center. His other option, he said, was to use Pat Burrell in right, move Ben Zobrist to center and use Willy Aybar at DH. There was some odd late-game shuffling with Reid Brignac moving into centerfield, his first professional outfield appearance.

PITCHING IN: RHP Jeff Niemann is pleased with how he has been pitching overall but had been addressing his work out of the stretch.

In his last start Thursday in Seattle, Niemann threw 11 consecutive balls with a man on first. "Just trying to establish our rhythm out of the stretch," Niemann said. "It's a shorter motion and you've got to be quick to hold the runner and stuff, but you can still have somewhat of a rhythm and tempo in the stretch and that's kind of what we stressed in the bullpen."

MISCELLANY: 1B Carlos Peña is likely to be off today. … Cuban signee Leslie Anderson went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts playing first base for Class A Charlotte in his U.S. pro debut. … LHP J.P. Howell, continuing his rehab of a weak shoulder, is scheduled for another bullpen session today in St. Petersburg, then batting practice Friday. … The Rays added two concerts to their lineup: Barenaked Ladies on June 26 and Bret Michaels on Sept. 25, with Dierks Bentley moving up to June 12. More details, 2B.

Ex-Tampa Bay Ray Scott Kazmir says he should have edge in first meeting with former team 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 8:40am]

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