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Rays ace Kazmir scheduled to return to rotation May 3

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays weren't clear on when Scott Kazmir would pitch his first extended spring training game — it was Monday, not today as announced — but they now have a specific date in mind for his return to the majors: May 3, at Boston.

Kazmir threw two innings — 25 pitches, mostly fastballs — in Dunedin against Toronto's extended spring squad (typically minor-leaguers not ready for a full-season team), hitting 93 mph and reporting no concerns with the left elbow he strained Feb. 26.

"It all went great," he said. "I was throwing my fastball in and out. It's tough to set up those guys; that's why I didn't throw too many offspeeds (three changeups, one slider). But for the most part, it felt good."

Kazmir is scheduled to pitch for Class A Vero Beach on Friday (3-4 innings) and again April 23, move up to Triple-A Durham to start April 28 then rejoin the Rays to pitch May 3.

Manager Joe Maddon apologized for the mixup on Kazmir's schedule, saying it was a simple misstatement on his part.

NAVI BETTER: C Dioner Navarro could be back as soon as Sunday, having gotten the stitches out of his right middle and ring fingers Monday.

He took swings off a tee with the application of Dermabond, a sterile form of super glue. He will work out at the minor-league complex today and catch in an extended game Wednesday.

Navarro is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday and, Maddon said, "could be ready on time."

RHP Matt Garza, who left the April 8 game with radial nerve irritation, continues to progress and is scheduled for his first bullpen session today. INF Ben Zobrist had his fractured left thumb checked and said the pins have to stay in for another two weeks. LHP Kurt Birkins (left elbow neuritis) threw two innings in extended spring.

ED-WIN JACKSON: Edwin Jackson heads into his third start tonight insisting he hasn't done much different in getting off to his dazzling 2-0 start, with a 0.64 ERA that ranked fourth best in the majors.

"Same preparation, same routine, just now it's different results," Jackson said.

But Maddon said there are some differences, primarily "the quality" of Jackson's pitches.

"What I'm seeing is better location (with his) fastball down, I'm seeing more conviction with his pitches, I'm seeing a slider that's disappearing right now," Maddon said. "He really hasn't run into that big inning or that big problem. If there's something a little bit going on wrong, he's able to right himself rather quickly right now, so I think his composure is better."

Jackson isn't letting the success go to his head: "I'm not getting too comfortable right now. I could go 0-2 and lose the rest of the games, and then the big question would be, 'What are you doing different now?' and it won't be anything different. … Definitely, by far, I'm not just satisfied with 2-0. It's a long season."

After watching Jackson dominate Seattle with eight shutout innings Thursday, Maddon will have veteran Mike DiFelice again behind the plate.

"I'm not that smart to change that," Maddon said.

SPECIAL TRIBUTE: All Rays will wear No. 42 tonight in honor of Jackie Robinson Tribute Day.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are expected to announce today that they have extended their working agreement with Triple-A Durham for another two years, through 2010. … INF Elliot Johnson received the Al Lopez Award for being the top rookie in spring training. … LF Carl Crawford's homer was his first extra-base hit of the season. … Evan Longoria got the ball back from his first major-league homer. … He and B.J. Upton hit the Rays' first back-to-back homers of the season. … Scott Dohmann worked a career-high 32/3 shutout innings.

Rays ace Kazmir scheduled to return to rotation May 3 04/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 2:59pm]
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