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Rays ace Kazmir eager for long-awaited season debut

BOSTON — In completing his recovery from a spring training elbow strain, Scott Kazmir has gone through extensive hours of treatment, repeated mundane drills and exercises, played catch at assorted distances and degrees of effort and made rehab starts in three minor-league cities.

But to get back on the mound today as scheduled at Fenway Park, he might have to beat the rain, which is forecast for much of the afternoon.

"It's like it's been forever," he said. "One month feels like the entire season. I'm just excited to contribute to the team."

As eager as Kazmir is to return — so much so that he got up early, by ballplayer standards anyway, about 9:30 on Saturday morning to make it easier to get a good night's sleep — he is aware that the Rays have done well without him.

"There's part of me, you want to stand back there, something good's going on, you don't want to mess anything up," Kazmir said. "But at the same time, you want to go out there and be with your teammates and enjoy what we have going and keep it going."

The good news is the Rays don't need him to be a savior, though a strong start to avoid a sweep would be welcomed.

Starting his season against the Red Sox might seem like a tough draw, but Kazmir has pitched well against them, with a 6-5 record and 2.66 overall ERA. If anything, he said he might have to "harness" his adrenaline when pitching at Fenway.

Kazmir has been able to throw his fastball and breaking balls with no restrictions during his rehab, and the only limit today will be about 100 pitches, but how he uses them will be a factor as well.

Manager Joe Maddon said the cold and wet weather isn't a concern, though the potential for the game being interrupted could be.

REYES NEWS GOOD: The Rays said the news on reliever Al Reyes was good, as an MRI exam of his right arm showed only biceps tendinitis and he could be back in a few weeks.

"It's nothing severe, nothing horrible," Maddon said. "We don't have a definite timetable right now, but it doesn't seem to be one of those things that takes a whole lot of time, either.

Reyes, out since April 16 with what was called a shoulder impingement, will receive treatment and medicine and could begin throwing Monday.

UPTON NOT UP TO IT: CF B.J. Upton told Maddon he wanted to give his left shoulder, strained Thursday, another day's rest and wasn't ready to start, though he was available to pinch-hit. "I'd rather be sure," Upton said.

Upton said he hopes to be in the lineup today, though a decision won't be made until this morning.

"He just felt he needed a little bit more time, that's all," Maddon said.

MINOR MATTER: LHP James Houser of Sarasota was ejected from Double-A Montgomery's game Friday after hitting Huntsville's Matt LaPorta, a former Florida Gator from Port Charlotte, with his first pitch of the second inning. LaPorta had three homers in the first two games of the series.

MISCELLANY: OF Justin Ruggiano was optioned back to Triple-A Durham to make room for Kazmir. … Akinori Iwamura is one of two starting second basemen in the majors without an error, joining fellow Japanese league product Tadahito Iguchi of San Diego. … Andy Cannizaro saw his first action as a Ray, replacing Jason Bartlett at short in the eighth. … Gabe Gross hit his first homer as a Ray, Iwamura his second of the season. … The Rays are now 0-20-4 in their past 24 series at Fenway Park. … DH Cliff Floyd's rehab from right knee surgery was interrupted when he had to go to Chicago for a family matter. He will make his second extended spring appearance Monday.

Rays ace Kazmir eager for long-awaited season debut 05/03/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2008 12:06am]

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