TAMPA — Manager Joe Maddon insists Scott Kazmir is fine, that there's "not a thing wrong." Kazmir said much the same thing, that it's a matter of needing "just a little bit more time."
But Kazmir has been scratched from his scheduled exhibition debut today, with the Rays saying he needs to "build up more arm strength" to be game ready, and they are uncertain when he will be able to go.
As much as the Rays insist it is no big deal, any delay has to be a concern because it not only makes it official Kazmir won't be ready for the March 31 opener, but it increases the possibility he could start the season on the disabled list.
"This definitely falls under the umbrella of us being cautious," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "Our goal for him is to throw 200-plus innings this year, and we're not going to cut corners or cheat the process at all to ensure that he starts opening day or the second day of the season."
Pitching coach Jim Hickey said he doesn't consider the delay "a setback" and "wouldn't say he's a DL guy." Neither did Kazmir, who remains hopeful of pitching in the season's first week: "We will see. I'm just not going to rush it."
Optimistically, the Rays say Kazmir, who strained his left elbow Feb. 26, could throw a bullpen session Tuesday or Wednesday but even then might not get into a game until the following week.
And reliever Kurt Birkins left Saturday's game at Disney with tightness in his left elbow, but the Rays say it is more likely a nerve issue than a ligament problem. His 2006 season with Baltimore was cut short because of a similar problem.