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Tampa Bay Rays' Scott Kazmir shows improved mechanics

SARASOTA — LHP Scott Kazmir may have received some rave reviews — and ribbing — after his performance at the plate Sunday, when he went 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

But it was the encouraging signs Kazmir showed on the mound that impressed the Rays the most, especially considering the All-Star pitcher was coming off two so-so starts.

Kazmir gave up just two runs and four hits in six innings during an 11-2 victory against the Reds, saying that recent drill work on his mechanics made him "feel like it was a little bit easier to get (the pitches) all where I wanted them to go."

"I thought he was very, very good," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's what we're talking about right there, great repetition of his delivery, quality strikes down in the zone with his fastball. Sharpest slider I've seen in a long time. And the changeup was there, too. He was just in control of his body, and thus the pitches were in the right spots. He looked really sharp."

Kazmir has worked this spring on keeping his head still during his delivery, as well as his direction toward the plate. Both seemed to be clicking Sunday, with his one blemish a two-run homer in the third to Jay Bruce.

Kazmir got those runs back in the fourth, ripping a two-run double over LF Chris Dickerson's head. He added an RBI single later.

"I'll take that," he said, smiling. "I'll put that on my spring training stats — three ribbies."

And the Rays would likely take another pitching performance like Sunday, too.

IZZY TIZZY: RHP Jason Isringhausen, pitching on back-to-back days for the first time this spring, was sharp, throwing a hitless seventh, including a strikeout of former Ray Jonny Gomes.

Isringhausen, 36, who is trying to stay in the mix for a bullpen spot, said he felt fine, and that health isn't an issue for him (coming off elbow surgery in September). The former All-Star closer said it's now just a matter of getting more work in.

"I thought he was even sharper (Sunday) than he was (Saturday)," Maddon said. "Threw more curveballs, really good rotation and bite on them. I think the velocity was good. He just has to get out there more often. He needs work to get that feeling back. And he's going to get it."

TAKING THE FIFTH: While Maddon said the Rays are closer to naming the fifth starter, they don't appear in a hurry to announce the winner between RHPs Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann. Niemann is scheduled to pitch today in a minor-league game in Port Charlotte.

"We just don't feel there's any rush," Maddon said. "We just want to make sure we're doing the right thing. I'm sure we'll have it done by the time we get to Philadelphia (for exhibitions Friday and Saturday)."

GAME DETAILS: OF Matt Joyce did well in another start in centerfield and went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. 2B Adam Kennedy went 3-for-4 with a walk, improving his average to .333. C Shawn Riggans and SS Ray Olmedo each went 3-for-5. The Rays are 13-13-1 for the spring.

MISCELLANY: CF B.J. Upton was scheduled to play in a minor-league game Sunday, but it was rained out. He's scheduled to play five innings in centerfield today and get four at-bats in a Triple-A game in Port Charlotte.

Tampa Bay Rays' Scott Kazmir shows improved mechanics 03/29/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 30, 2009 7:41am]

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