ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Scott Kazmir said he feels as if he's getting close to rejoining the Rays.
Though there's no timetable, Kazmir said his recent bullpen session went "great" and he'll throw another one today.
Kazmir, on the disabled list with a right quad strain, said he has found a big source for his mechanical issues. He hopes that by keeping his arm strength up, he can avoid needing a minor-league rehab assignment before being activated.
"Realistically, I think I'm really far along where I want to be," Kazmir said. "I feel like I'm close. I want to get out there as quick as possible. It's killing me being on the DL; I feel like I can contribute now, but I want to go out there and have everything right."
Manager Joe Maddon has said they are going to be patient with Kazmir's rehab, wanting to make sure his quad is right then straightening out his mechanics.
Kazmir said a possible root of his bad habits is that after he worked his way back in May 2008 from a left elbow strain, he stopped doing as much long-toss because he felt discomfort.
"It wasn't me stretching my arm out," Kazmir said. "It wasn't keeping it in shape. It was me getting loose and then shutting it down. What happened because of that, I was cutting everything off; I started just developing bad habits. And now with me throwing long toss almost every day, I'm getting that extension."
When asked if there could be a minor-league rehab assignment, Kazmir said, "That's what I'm trying to avoid; that's why I'm trying to keep my arm strength up, so I don't have to build back up. It's something that if I come back in 10-15 days, that I feel I won't need that to stay on track."
Return to form?: Maddon said he believes struggling RHP Andy Sonnanstine is going to step up, and he is eager to see if the right-hander can make the necessary adjustments tonight.
Sonnanstine (3-5, 7.66 ERA) gave up a career-high eight runs in three innings in his last start.
"Of course we want him to pitch at a better level than he is," Maddon said. "His ERA is very high, and he's had some difficult moments. We talked about it a couple days ago about him pitching more inside, but we've been looking even deeper, and we think we found some other items that are kind of interesting."
At the top: CF B.J. Upton will return to the leadoff spot tonight, Maddon said, adding he still "believes in him," despite his .204 average, and is not planning on moving him down in the order.
"Like I said, the biggest sticking point there for me is him and how he's reacting to the whole thing, and he's reacted really well," Maddon said. "So I'd like to think a couple days will get him straightened out a little bit more mentally.
"I still believe in him; I believe he's really going to catch fire. And when you've seen it the times it's happened when him and Carl (Crawford) get on at the same time, it's real fun to watch."
Maddon did say he spoke to Upton about not trying to get back to .300 "overnight."
"I think that the guys really lose track of the one-day-at-a-time situation, when you get mired in that kind of a moment," Maddon said. "With everything, I've just tried to have him understand it's going to happen, be patient and let it happen naturally."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.