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Tampa Bay Rays, Scott Kazmir examine sources of pitcher's troubles

BOSTON — The problem, according to all parties, is not in LHP Scott Kazmir's arm.

His slight drop in velocity and latest maddening habit of struggling in the first inning are not the product of an injury or physical problem, he and the Rays say.

So as Kazmir prepares for today's start, he talked, as he has before, about it being a matter of mechanics — of needing to be more direct to the plate, getting better extension, having more torque in his delivery and being aggressive from the first pitch.

After extensive video work this week, Kazmir is confident that with a few changes, including a quicker tempo at the start of his delivery, he will be better.

"I feel like I'm really getting on to something," Kazmir said.

But there's another line of thinking in the clubhouse, that Kazmir's problems may be that he's thinking too much.

"Scott often talks about the mechanics and feeling off and things like this, and I'm quite certain there are issues with mechanics at times and all that, but I'm not really convinced that everything is just mechanical," pitching coach Jim Hickey said.

The early struggles — a 12.00 ERA and 10 walks in his six first innings (to 18 in his other 27), and 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0 deficits in the first frame of his three losses — may be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"These things, whether it's a hitting slump or a pitching slump or something in particular, like I can't hit a left-handed pitcher or I have trouble with a curveball, it almost tends to fulfill itself. And I think the first-inning struggles have become a little bit less mechanical and a little bit more about that," Hickey added. "You know you have first-inning problems so you try extra hard to not have these first-inning problems, and the next thing you know you've got first-inning problems. And it's a here-we-go-again type of thing, and it becomes very, very frustrating."

RIGGANS SETBACK: The Rays won't know how big of a setback backup C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder) had until after he sees orthopedist James Andrews on Monday.

Riggans, on the disabled list since April 10 with tendinitis, was removed from Thursday's rehab game after experiencing discomfort on a pickoff throw.

"It's never good when you have to take a guy out like that," manager Joe Maddon said. "Even going down there I know he was feeling better, but I wasn't totally convinced. I know how badly he wanted to get back here. We'll just have to find out medically where it is. I'm not overtly optimistic that he'll be back any time soon right now."

Riggans was aiming to rejoin the Rays on Sunday. Michel Hernandez, who started Friday as Dioner Navarro got a night off, remains the primary backup.

KENNEDY SENT TO A'S: The Rays kept their word with Adam Kennedy, trading the veteran infielder to Oakland for a minor-league position player (to be named in the next week or so) and cash.

When the Rays signed Kennedy after he was released by St. Louis just before spring training, there was an understanding that if he didn't make their squad and went to Triple-A Durham that they wouldn't keep him from an opportunity to get back to the big leagues. So when the A's, with 2B Mark Ellis out four to six weeks due to a left calf strain, called, the Rays followed through.

"It's an extended opportunity for Adam, and we weren't going to stand in the way," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "It made sense for him and we made the best of it."

Kennedy was hitting .280 in 23 games at Durham with three homers and nine RBIs, playing first, second and third.

MISCELLANY: CF B.J. Upton started after missing Thursday's game due to an intestinal bug. … 1B Carlos Peña and 3B Evan Longoria were the first teammates to reach 30 RBIs in the first 30 games of a season since Seattle's Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez in 2000. … Ex-Ray Rocco Baldelli is likely to be in the Boston lineup today. … RHP Jason Isringhausen allowed three runs in a two-inning rehab stint for Durham.

Tampa Bay Rays, Scott Kazmir examine sources of pitcher's troubles 05/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 6:21am]

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