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Rays ace Kazmir may throw from mound next week, unlikely to pitch until mid April

BUTTERFINGERS: John McDonald flubs the throw as Jonny Gomes takes second in the fifth.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

BUTTERFINGERS: John McDonald flubs the throw as Jonny Gomes takes second in the fifth.

DUNEDIN — In an expected move, the Rays on Tuesday placed ace LHP Scott Kazmir (left elbow strain) and INF Ben Zobrist (left thumb fracture) on the 15-day disabled list.

But for the first time, they've set a tentative schedule for Kazmir's return.

Manager Joe Maddon said Kazmir could work from the mound again next week. He threw from 90 feet Tuesday and will work his way up to 120 by the end of the weekend.

Both DL stints will be retroactive to March 21, with the two eligible for activation April 5, the fifth game of the regular season.

Though Zobrist has a chance to make it back that quickly, it won't happen for Kazmir. Maddon said the club is being more conservative than it was when he got hurt Feb.  26. Kazmir hasn't thrown off a mound since March 13, when he was thought to be wrapping up his rehab. The Rays backed off when they believed his arm strength wasn't where it should be.

Zobrist got his cast off a week early, but a doctor's appointment Monday showed he hadn't fully recovered. INF Elliot Johnson is a potential replacement.

ANDERSON JOINS (COACHING) STAFF: LHP Brian Anderson, who suffered a career-ending elbow injury two weeks ago, may be the first in modern baseball history to have his locker in the players' clubhouse one day then the coaches' room the next.

The 35-year-old agreed to join the staff as an assistant to pitching coach Jim Hickey. Anderson said he was "honored" by the offer, which will put him in a variety of roles, from helping Hickey to doing advanced scouting or working in the front office during away games.

Anderson considered going back to his broadcasting job in Ohio or attending law school before the Rays reached out.

"Dressing in that (coaches) locker room is like stepping back in time 15 years," Anderson quipped. "I'm a rookie again."

UTILITY TIME: Johnson (shortstop) and Eric Hinske (third base) made a rare appearance together on the left side of the infield, and both made favorable impressions as they tried to prove their worth as utility guys. Johnson made two plays in the first inning, including in a 4-6-3 double play. Hinske went 1-for-3 with an RBI double and made a snag of a liner just over his head.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said RHP Jason Hammel looked "really sharp" in his four scoreless innings during the 10-0 win over the Blue Jays. … Five relievers, including Troy Percival, pitched a scoreless inning. … Willy Aybar (sore left hamstring), the expected opening day third baseman, hasn't played since Saturday, but Maddon said he could get in today or Thursday. … As the Rays consider outside options for rightfield, Seattle OF Jeremy Reed could be a trade target.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Rays ace Kazmir may throw from mound next week, unlikely to pitch until mid April 03/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 9:09pm]
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