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Tampa Bay Rays starter Scott Kazmir makes progress with mechanics

Rays starter Scott Kazmir delivers in an uncharacteristically scoreless first inning, stranding runners on second and third.

Associated Press

Rays starter Scott Kazmir delivers in an uncharacteristically scoreless first inning, stranding runners on second and third.

BOSTON — LHP Scott Kazmir got through the first inning without a run, which was an accomplishment by itself Saturday. Getting through five innings, albeit not all easy, and getting his fourth win made it even better.

Kazmir's problem — for assorted reasons — has been consistency in his delivery. He tried to quicken it Saturday and was pleased with his progress.

"The tempo was better," he said. "There's still steps to take with my delivery, but it's getting a lot better, a whole lot better.

"I feel like I was, I guess you can say, repeating my mechanics a lot more."

Kazmir has been putting himself, and the team, in a hole with his rough first innings, allowing nine runs on seven hits and 10 walks in his first six.

Saturday, he walked Dustin Pedroia with one out and, after some sloppy defense when David Ortiz rolled a grounder by third to beat the shift, had men on second and third but escaped when he struck out Jason Bay and got Mike Lowell on a groundout.

Though he threw more than 20 pitches in the first two innings and 34 to complete the fifth (for 100 total), he also had five- and 12-pitch innings.

"A very positive performance," manager Joe Maddon said.

Kazmir had a few blemishes, including a second-inning homer to former teammate Rocco Baldelli when he hung a 3-and-2 slider.

"He's a good hitter; you can't knock him about that," Kazmir said. "He just took advantage of a mistake."

Baldelli, who last homered in Game 5 of the World Series, wasn't claiming any bragging rights over his ex-mates.

"I get excited to hit a home run against anybody," he said. "It's not really anything special doing it against these guys."

Going to the Matt: As the Red Sox can give testimony, given his 7-1 career mark against them, Rays RHP Matt Garza is pretty good. But to be considered great, Maddon said, Garza has to do a couple of things: be more consistent and less complicated.

"The biggest thing with him is that I don't want him to try to overanalyze everything," Maddon said. "He's very gifted in a very primal way — just don't try to get too smart. I like when he goes out there and he's aggressive. The other teams should force him to change his game plan. So when he's in that mode, I like him the best."

Garza goes into tonight's start on a tear, winning his past two and allowing only a .100 average (5-for-50) and 1.15 ERA.

Dillon acquired: The Rays got veteran INF Joe Dillon, 33, from Oakland to complete the trade of Adam Kennedy. Dillon, who has played 122 big-league games with the Marlins (2005) and Brewers ('07-08), will report to Triple-A Durham. He has been sidelined with a back injury but is expected to be activated today or Monday.

Minor matters: Double-A Montgomery OF Desmond Jennings was named the Rays' minor-league player of the month for hitting .349 in April. He has a good start on the May award after going 5-for-6 on Friday to raise his average to .400. His 48 hits were second in all of minor-league ball.

Biscuits RHP Jeremy Hellickson, sidelined with a shoulder strain, was named the top pitcher for going 2-1, 1.93 with 33 strikeouts and eight walks.

Rehab report: RHP Jason Isringhausen was impressive in a two-inning stint for Triple-A Durham, clocked at "a solid" 92 mph, according to Maddon, with an 87-88 mph hard cutter and a good curve. Isringhausen's 30-day rehab is up May 19, but Maddon said there are still no set plans.

Miscellany: DH Pat Burrell attempted and stole his first base since Sept. 30, 2004, and has six for his career. … RHP Lance Cormier earned his second career save. … The Rays stole a base for the 12th straight game, the longest streak since the 2001 Yankees had 17. … The cleats Carl Crawford wore to steal six bases May 3 went on display Friday at the Hall of Fame.

Tampa Bay Rays starter Scott Kazmir makes progress with mechanics 05/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 10, 2009 7:57am]
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