CHICAGO — The question about Scott Kazmir's status for Thursday's start was finally answered after Tuesday's game.
"I talked to him and he felt really good so I'm expecting him to pitch, I fully am,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "I think it's a go.''
Kazmir confirmed that was the case as well: "It's a go — 100 percent.''
The Rays had been wavering slightly the past few days, as they wanted to make sure the residual soreness from the cramps that forced him out of Saturday's game were gone.
Before talking to Kazmir, Maddon said — and posted on his Twitter account (RaysJoeMaddon) — that Kazmir was "fine" and expected to pitch.
But Maddon was hesitant to make a declaration. He said reviews on Kazmir's throwing were positive and "it looks pretty good right now," but he wanted to talk it over first.
As the pregame conversation in the dugout went in circles, Maddon was asked if it was fair to say at this point that he expected Kazmir to pitch.
"Yeah, I kinda do, I kinda do,'' he said. "We'll see. But of course I'm not going to put him out there if he's not ready to do it. It seems like it's progressing nicely and as of right now, he's going to make that start, yes.''
ON SECOND THOUGHT: SS Jason Bartlett said he had no regrets about his failed attempt to steal third in the eighth inning Monday, thwarting a prime opportunity to tie the score.
"That's something where I want to stay aggressive, and if I start being passive about, then I'm going to lose that," Bartlett said.
Maddon agreed, though he reiterated that Bartlett should have realized he didn't have a good jump and pulled up, and also that B.J. Upton should have read the play and broken from first to make it a double steal.
"We messed it up," Maddon said. "I'm not going to be overtly critical. Our guys have done a great job. … Sometimes it's going to bite you, and that doesn't mean you stop doing it. It's like a shooter in basketball, man. Sometimes you miss the big shot, you come back the next day, you take it, and you hit it. I don't ever want our guys worried about making mistakes. Ever."
SECONDARY DEFENSE: Willy Aybar has made three errors in his past two starts at second base and shown limited range, but that won't stop Maddon from using him there. "I'm not concerned," he said. "Willy played really good defense for us all last year. I have a lot of confidence in him to do those things, and he's on this team to do those things."
RIGHT ON: A blister on Chicago LHP John Danks' left hand is a break for the Rays. Danks, who is 4-1, 2.67 ERA against the Rays, was scratched tonight and will be replaced by RHP Carlos Torres, making his big-league debut.
DIFFERENT LOOK: Concerned about the potential dominance of LHP Clayton Richard, Maddon opted for a radically different lineup, with All-Stars Carlos Peña and Carl Crawford on the bench, with Ben Zobrist hitting cleanup for the first time since Class A ball in 2005, and Joe Dillon making his first start since June 8.
MISCELLANY: Zobrist extended his hitting streak to 11 games. … Crawford said he considered hitting an inside-the-park home run "a little more exciting" than stealing home. … Toronto's July 28 deadline to trade ace RHP Roy Halladay doesn't help the Rays — he is scheduled to face them Friday. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson, one of the top pitching prospects, was promoted to Triple-A Durham and will start Friday. … RHP Jeff Niemann won his fifth straight decision. … Maddon said LHP Brian Shouse came through his Monday night rehab appearance fine, and would pitch again Thursday for Class A Charlotte. … J.P. Howell has converted his past eight save opportunities, 10 overall. … Crawford picked up his major league-leading 47th steal.