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Tampa Bay Rays' Scott Kazmir in 'long funk'

ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Scott Kazmir says he's "just in a funk right now" — "a long funk" — but is convinced he's going to get back to his regular form.

Kazmir continued his recent struggles in Friday's start when he gave up seven runs on 10 hits (second most in his career). He has now given up more than half as many runs (34) as all of last season (61).

The Rays' historical comeback helped Kazmir avoid losing his fourth start in his past six outings. In his past four starts, he's 1-2 with a 10.61 ERA and opponents are hitting .364 against him (that's after he started the season 3-1 with a 3.97 ERA).

"It's something, just a matter of me just being a little more confident and not worrying about what I'm doing," Kazmir said. "Not worrying about mechanics, not worrying about where something is at at a certain point. Just me going out there and saying, 'This is what I got, go get it.' Just having confidence out there to let it go."

Rays starters haven't lasted beyond the fifth inning in each of the past four starts (They're 1-2 with a 10.57 ERA, having given up 37 hits, 21 runs in just 151/3 innings).

Manager Joe Maddon said it's a "terrible trend," but his confident they'll bounce back.

IN AND OUT: LF Carl Crawford returned to the lineup Friday, saying he's ready to play with no limitations after missing one game with a bruised right shoulder.

"I feel pretty good," Crawford said. "I wouldn't be out there if I didn't feel all the way where I can still perform well."

Crawford went 2-for-4 and swiped two more bases Friday.

"I want to keep playing to see if I can keep it going," Crawford said. "I'm kind of rested a little bit and feel good today."

Maddon said DH Pat Burrell (neck stiffness) got his cortisone shot Friday morning and will not be available for today's game before getting re-evaluated Sunday.

ON A ROLL: Through RHP Matt Garza has come off three strong starts, including two wins, he's continued to maintain a "one-game-at-a-time" approach, which has apparently helped him find some consistency.

"It's great to have outings like that, but I know there's going to be days where I don't have it," Garza said. "It's a humbling game. I'm just trying to keep the same routine, keep everything the same. And just keep working."

GETTING LOW: After a strong start to the season, RHP Joe Nelson has struggled in his past six appearances (16.62 ERA, with 41/3 innings, 10 hits, eight runs and six walks).

But after watching video, Nelson believes he has pinpointed the problem, and he worked on it Friday. Essentially, Nelson said he has been missing low in the zone, a result of him dropping his arm during his delivery and "getting under the ball, just pushing it toward the plate.

"It's got to be fixed," Nelson said. "I don't have the stuff to get away with missing up. It's frustrating. At this point in my career, I should be able to make adjustments on the fly."

CLOSE CALL: Indians manager Eric Wedge was ejected in the third inning after arguing a controversial call at the plate. On the play, Jamey Carroll singled to center, but CF B.J. Upton threw out Mark De- Rosa trying to score from second. DeRosa appeared to beat the throw with his slide, but C Dioner Navarro was blocking the plate.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria and OF Gabe Gross will sign autographs for kids 14 and under from noon to 12:30 p.m. Sunday . … The All-Star balloting program began Friday at Tropicana Field and runs through June 28. … An Inside the Rays on the Air show will be on Sun Sports after Tuesday's game. It will take fans behind the scenes of TV and radio broadcasts.

Tampa Bay Rays' Scott Kazmir in 'long funk' 05/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 7:25pm]

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