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Rays Tales: The Ex-Factor as Scott Kazmir prepares to face former teammates

Scott Kazmir, who was traded to the Angels last season, is set to face his former Rays teammates for the first time on Tuesday.

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Scott Kazmir, who was traded to the Angels last season, is set to face his former Rays teammates for the first time on Tuesday.

Sure, Scott Kazmir was saying over the phone the other day he'd marked the date and had been eagerly looking forward and whatnot to his first chance to face his former Rays teammates. "Until," he said, laughing, "I saw these guys play this year." No matter if the Rays are smoking or struggling, Tuesday's game is going to be different. Kazmir had been a part of the Rays since 2004, playing with and growing up with many of their current stars, before being traded, surprisingly, last Aug. 29, and he's still close with many of them.

"It's going to be weird facing these guys," Kazmir said. "I've talked to quite a few of them already. It's just going to be weird when guys step up to the plate. I'm going to have a hard time not laughing, not smiling, especially B.J. (Upton, his closest friend). But you've got to stick to business. No matter how hard it is."

"It is going to be a little weird," Upton said. "But he's got that different uniform on now. It'll be good once the game is over."

Kazmir said he has settled in well in Anaheim. Working with current Angels and former Rays pitching coach Mike Butcher, Kazmir — and doesn't this sound familiar — has overhauled his mechanics, going to more of an overhand style that he says produces "a lot more action, a lot more velocity" on his pitches and helps him throw his slider with more confidence.

He's looking forward to showing his ex-mates how he's doing.

"It seems like it would be inevitable," he said. "I just didn't think it would be this soon."

The trade

• Kazmir is 4-4, 3.94 in 11 starts for the Angels, plus three postseason appearances.

• INF Sean Rodriguez is hitting .208, playing part time for the Rays.

• LHP Alex Torres is 3-2, 3.41 for Double-A Montgomery, and could be a late-season bullpen booster.

• INF Matt Sweeney is hitting .275/4/11 for Class A Charlotte.

The finances

By trading Kazmir, the Rays saved the $24 million-plus remaining on his contract. The $8 million salary (slightly less than their current five starters make combined) they didn't have to pay him in theory is going instead to closer Rafael Soriano.

The history

Kazmir was 55-44, 3.92 over parts of six seasons as a Ray and still ranks as their all-time leader in wins, losses, ERA, starts (144), innings (834), strikeouts (874). He started their first — and thus far last — World Series game. Interesting excerpt of the week

From Tom Verducci on "Yes, it's not too early to say that the Rays are for real. They are so good that they have interjected urgency to Boston's season in early May. The Red Sox have already had one bad month. Another will doom them. They have to play .600 ball for five months to have a chance — not impossible, but the sword of Damocles will be hanging over them. For all their early problems, Boston's biggest problem is the Rays."

Rays Rumblings

There could there be an interesting turf war at the Trop: the Rays are deciding whether to switch next season to Astroturf, which has a sponsorship deal with MLB, or stay with FieldTurf, which just signed 3B Evan Longoria as its spokesman. … After late great Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell retired to his Florida home in 2002, then-Rays owner Vince Naimoli tried to get him to work some of their games. … The last batter in the last Tigers game Harwell called? Carlos Peña, who struck out. "I wish I would have at least grounded out so Ernie had more to say," Peña said. … Tentative title for the Jonah Keri book coming out next spring on the 2008 season: The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Thinking Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. … Did the Rays know something about 2B Aki Iwamura, who is hitting .194 for the Pirates and is being criticized for his defense and lack of speed? … Did they miss something about RHP Mitch Talbot, who is 3-2, 2.88 for the Indians and battling Wade Davis for early AL rookie of the year attention? Wait a bit on that one. Plus, where would he pitch? … The New York Post's Joel Sherman writes that the Rays should move — either to downtown Tampa or Connecticut.

Got a minute? John Jaso

Best meal you can make?

Barbecue ribs on the grill.

Karaoke song if you had to?

The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

Time-killer at the mall?

I hate the mall.

For Mother's Day, best mom sports moment?

When I was like 12 she just took me midnight bowling, spur of the moment.

Dream date?

(Actress) Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Rays Tales: The Ex-Factor as Scott Kazmir prepares to face former teammates 05/08/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 8, 2010 8:01pm]
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