ST. PETERSBURG — Both the Rays and LHP Scott Kazmir were very encouraged with how he threw — and felt — during a simulated game Friday afternoon.
So much so, Kazmir will take the next step with a rehab start next week for Class A Charlotte.
Manager Joe Maddon said Kazmir, on the disabled list with a right quad strain, will throw about 60-70 pitches and be re-evaluated afterward. Maddon said it's possible Kazmir could need two or three minor-league starts before returning.
"We've got to be really careful how we bring him back because I thought he looked pretty darn good," Maddon said.
Kazmir, who also is working through mechanical issues, said his delivery feels good and his changeup and slider have more bite with his fastball showing some more life. He threw about 45 pitches to Reid Brignac, Gabe Kapler and Joe Dillon over three simulated innings.
"He showed as much command as I've seen from him," said Brian Anderson, the Rays' assistant to the pitching coach. "He had a really good changeup. He was able to get his fastball consistently in on righties, which is a big key for him. If he does that, everything else falls into place. He had the best slider I had ever seen from him.
"Put it this way: If his stamina was where you'd like it to be, I would take that out on the mound tonight and feel really good about my chances of winning."
Maddon said he believes Kazmir is healthy and his biggest concern is trying to do too much, too soon, which could lead to injury. He liked what he saw Friday but would like to see Kazmir do it in a game and feel comfortable throwing 90-100 pitches.
Kapler said Kazmir's changeup looked like it had in the past with some "really good depth to it," and he's starting to look like his old self.
"Great stuff like he has doesn't go away in your 20s," Kapler said. "He's got his good stuff."
IN THE SWING: DH Pat Burrell returned to the lineup after missing 29 games due to a neck strain. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, hitting two flyouts to deep center.
"I felt good," Burrell said. "I took some good swings but didn't get any action in the box score. We won, and that's the most important thing. I felt comfortable personally and feel like I'm close. The best thing is I don't have any pain. I'm able to swing the bat freely, and that's what I need to do."
Burrell hit in the sixth spot. Maddon said he wanted to give cleanup hitter Carlos Peña protection with hot-hitting Ben Zobrist in the fifth spot, for the time being.
SPOT ON: RHP Andy Sonnanstine, who starts tonight, said he hopes to continue to progress on pitching inside, especially to right-handers, who have hit .418 with nine homers against him.
"I feel like I've been good on lefties, better than I have been in the past," he said. "But there's a lot of different things I need to sharpen up, like different assortments of breaking stuff to righties and lefties; and being a little smarter with that and locating a bit better.
"I don't have the gift of a 97 mph fastball, so I really have to spot up and use location as much as possible."
MEDICAL MATTERS: SS Jason Bartlett (sprained left ankle), on a three-game rehab assignment with Charlotte, went 1-for-4 as the DH on Friday with a single, walk and strikeout. … Maddon said LHP Brian Shouse (left elbow strain) has been given permission to start playing catch but otherwise is status quo in his rehab. … RHP Chad Bradford will continue his rehab assignment at Double-A Montgomery. (He and his wife recently had a baby.) … Backup C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder tendinitis) said he threw from 60 feet Friday (30-40 throws), felt good with "no pain," and will build from there.