TORONTO — Scott Kazmir felt terrible when his sixth-inning fastball struck umpire Tom Hallion in the chest and knocked him to the ground. It was even worse when he heard it.
"You saw it and it hit him flush,'' Kazmir said. "And I heard the sound. And the way he fell down, I knew it wasn't good. You never want to see anything like that. … It looked pretty serious. I missed my location and you kind of feel at fault.''
"That was scary,'' catcher Gregg Zaun said. "I feel so bad. It's one of those things I don't like to see that happen. It's pretty rare I don't get leather on a ball.''
Hallion, who had started the game at second and moved behind the plate after Jerry Crawford left with back spasms, stayed down briefly as medics were summoned but walked off the field on his own. He was checked by medical personnel, and it was determined he could stay in the game but would move to third base, which he did after a 21-minute delay.
"If he was having any difficulties breathing or something like that we wouldn't have let him go back out there,'' said Crawford, the crew chief. "I would have gone back out there.''
Zaun said there was nothing he could do as he set up outside with the left-handed hitting Travis Snider batting.
"I'm on one side of the plate and it's 90-plus (mph) on the complete opposite side of the plate, and up and in to boot,'' Zaun said. "And on top of that, I'm looking straight up into the lights bank above the restaurant. I lost it. I absolutely lost it.''
Crawford, a Tierra Verde resident, also left a June 21 Rays-Mets game due to back trouble, said he and Hallion are expected to be ready for their next assignment on Friday.
C.C. IMPROVING: LF Carl Crawford's stiff back loosened a bit Wednesday, enough that he could tie his shoes with no discomfort and speak more optimistically about returning to the lineup Friday.
"It's still sore, but it felt better than it felt (Tuesday)," he said. "I'm going to try my best to be ready for Detroit. I can't say (for sure), but that's what I'm shooting for right now."
Manager Joe Maddon said the report from head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield was similarly encouraging about gradual improvement, but — as tends to be the case often with Rays injuries — he said Crawford may need an additional day.
"I think there's a solid chance by Friday and if not, definitely Saturday," Maddon said.
Crawford, who left Monday's game in the third inning, said getting off the artificial turf and getting another day's rest will help. Even if the stiffness lingers for a few days, he doesn't expect it to be an ongoing problem.
MINOR-LEAGUER RECOVERING: Double-A Montgomery pitcher Darin Downs, who was struck in the head by a line drive Aug. 17, was released from a Birmingham, Ala., hospital Wednesday and headed home to West Palm Beach.
Downs, 24, who reportedly sustained a skull fracture, will remain under a doctor's care for now. But the Rays said he is expected to make a full recovery and resume his career next season.
LOOK, BUT DON'T TOUCH: Even with the Tigers shuffling their rotation for the four-game series that starts Friday, the Rays won't face RHP Edwin Jackson, a former teammate.
Instead, they'll face two lefties, as the Tigers sent RHP Armando Galarraga to the minors, moved rookie RHP Rick Porcello up a day to start Friday and will activate LHP Nate Robertson from the DL to start Saturday.
Jackson, as of now, is scheduled to face the Rays on Sept. 6 in the finale of the Trop portion of the home-and-home series.
REHAB REPORT: OF Fernando Perez went 1-for-4 with a double, a walk and an RBI as he continued his rehab at Triple-A Durham, batting leadoff and playing center. 2B Akinori Iwamura had the night off. Both are expected to rejoin the Rays on Tuesday.
MISCELLANY: The Rays dropped to 17-20 in one-run games, and lost for the second time in 59 games when leading after eight innings. … LHP David Price turned 24 Wednesday. … Tough night in the press box for Sun Sports TV reporter Todd Kalas: He dropped one foul ball, misplayed another and got booed. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson was impressive again for Durham on Tuesday, striking out 10, and has held Triple-A hitters to a .181 average, with 49 Ks in 421/3 IP. He is 4-1, 3.40 ERA in seven starts.