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)

Rays say strong first is key for Kazmir

BOSTON — Throughout his struggles this season, left-hander Scott Kazmir has talked, at different times, about fighting himself, not trusting his stuff and having issues with mechanics.

But to pitching coach Jim Hickey, what the All-Star's second-half scuffles come down to is relatively simple:

Kazmir's first inning, specifically his fastball command.

When Kazmir is comfortable locating his fastball and can get through the first couple of innings, he says he gains confidence and is effective. When he doesn't, and throws 25-plus pitches in the first, he tries to make up for the lack of efficiency by trying to get hitters out with one pitch, and it snowballs.

In eight of his past nine starts, Kazmir has thrown 20 or more first-inning pitches; he has won just three of them.

"If we could just get him through those first couple innings and have him have a somewhat normal pattern of number of pitches and get some nice results, I think he can really take off," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's all he needs, is a couple of good moments to get his confidence back."

Hickey feels Kazmir is not that far off. In Kazmir's last outing, when he threw 38 pitches in the first inning in Game 2 against the Red Sox, it "was as well as he has thrown the ball in his last five or six or seven first innings," Hickey said.

Kazmir got two quick outs on 10 pitches, walked David Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis hit a misplaced slider for a single.

"It felt like my command was there, everything was good until right when I ended up walking Big Papi," Kazmir said. "It was just frustrating, because I felt like I second-guessed myself right after I threw a slider, maybe I should have challenged him."

What makes Kazmir's fastball command even more important is that he hasn't always felt comfortable this season with his slider, arguably his best pitch.

"I think that's been the pitch that has probably been the difference between dominant performances and not," Hickey said. "Is the ability to throw that slider and throw it really, really well. … But he can pitch without it, too."

With Kazmir's start sandwiched between off days, Hickey said he doesn't have to worry about being too "efficient," since the bullpen is rested.

"Obviously everyone knows what he's capable of doing; he can run out there and throw a shutout" today, Hickey said. "This is an opportunity for him to basically erase any bad memories of any portion of the season. He can go ahead and write his ticket on the national stage. And I think I'd be very surprised if he didn't pitch really well."

Joe Smith can be reached at

Rays say strong first is key for Kazmir 10/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 5:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games


    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.
  2. RHP Alex Cobb feeling safer as Rays make playoff push

    The Heater

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing in the fourth inning of the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
  3. HomeTeam 100: Players 61-70


    Jefferson wide receiver Dontavius Smith during the game between Jefferson High School and Jesuit High School at Jesuit on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in Tampa, Fla.
  4. A second chance at life, away from the game he loved

    The Heater

    Dylan Delso, a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays' Gulf Coast League team, displays his scar at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On June 25, 2016 Delso fell backward down a flight of stairs, suffering a nearly fatal head injury that put him in a coma for eight days. He's finally back on the baseball field after a miraculous recovery.
  5. Rays morning after: Steven Souza Jr.'s status is a major concern


    The Rays will know more about the status of RF Steven Souza Jr. later today after reviewing results of a scheduled MRI and exam of the left hip he strained in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.

    Steven Souza Jr. strained his left hip in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.