Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kazmir takes steps toward opening day; Baldelli goes nowhere

CLEARWATER — Scott Kazmir's recovery from a left elbow strain has gone so well, Rays manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that he was now "pretty optimistic" the ace left-hander could make the March 31 opening day start.

But that good news came with a potentially ominous update on Rocco Baldelli, whose playing status is again in question based on how he felt after getting two at-bats Tuesday as the DH, popping out twice.

Though the Rays and Baldelli agreed to a cautious and flexible spring schedule as he seeks to come back after missing most of last season with hamstring problems, any setback would have to be considered concerning.

The Rays first talked about Baldelli playing in the outfield by the end of this week, then pushed that back and said he would remain as the DH, with his next appearance either Thursday or today. But he stayed in St. Petersburg on Thursday (spending much of the morning in the trainers' room) and while the Rays said they would wait until this morning to decide if he would play today, it didn't sound likely.

"He just wasn't up to speed, and I've just got to make sure with (head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield), this being the vague situation that it is," Maddon said. "I'm just really not sure that he's going to be able to play (today) based on recovery after the last time out."

The communal goal is to get Baldelli, 26, to opening day healthy and able to participate, and executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the Rays will remain patient — for now.

"Our thought process right now is to be overly cautious, so we'll keep monitoring it and seeing how it's going," he said. "We're not going to take any chances this early in spring.

"But as it gets later in spring, obviously we're going to need to get him out there a lot more and get a good sense of what we can expect in April and beyond."

If Baldelli is limited to sharing DH duties with Cliff Floyd, the Rays plan to use Jonny Gomes primarily in rightfield. If Baldelli isn't available at all, they might have to look for outside outfield help, either via trade or remaining free agents such as Kenny Lofton or, perhaps, Barry Bonds.

Kazmir, 24, sidelined since feeling discomfort in his elbow Feb. 26, looked so good playing catch over 90 feet Thursday morning that Maddon started mapping out a plan that could have him ready for the opener.

"It was very firm and noninhibited arm action," Maddon said. "He threw really well."

Assuming all remains well, Kazmir (who said he felt "strong") will have two sessions of "long toss" this weekend, throw a bullpen session Monday or Tuesday, pitch in an exhibition game March 14 or 15, then make at least two other spring appearances.

"By doing that we could get him on task, or back on, possibly for the opening day of the season," Maddon said. "We'll be able to build back from the moment we know he can pitch in that game. …

"From what I saw today I'm pretty optimistic. He looked normal, and he was not holding back, and I think it could be right about that time he's going to be ready to go."

The Rays, though, will be cautious and could decide, even if Kazmir looks good, to push him to the back of the rotation and delay his debut until April 5 or 6.

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Kazmir takes steps toward opening day; Baldelli goes nowhere 03/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2008 10:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mikhail Sergachev said he felt comfortable and welcomed in his first day in a Lightning uniform.
  2. Trump welcomes Joe Maddon and World Series champion Cubs to White House

    The Heater

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has welcomed the manager and several players from the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to the White House.

    President Donald Trump, with Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, right, and team members, gives a thumb-up as he meets with the 2016 World Series Champions Chicago Cubs, Wednesday,  in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. [AP photo]
  3. Lightning re-signs Cory Conacher to two-year deal


    Cory Conacher said he wanted another shot in the NHL, and hoped it would be with the Lightning.

    Cory Conacher on Wednesday signed a two-year deal with Tampa Bay.
  4. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Blake Snell on the mound


    LHP Blake Snell returns to the majors for the Rays tonight after a six-week stint at Triple-A Durham, confident changes to his mechanics will lead to more strike-throwing and an increase in confidence will make him more successful.

    Blake Snell returns to the majors for the Rays tonight after a six-week stint at Triple-A Durham.
  5. Lightning's Mathieu Joseph on the rise at development camp


    BRANDON — The last 12 months have been quite the ride for Mathieu Joseph.

    Mathieu Joseph checks Carolina's Jake Bean during a preseason game in September in Tampa.