ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Scott Kazmir left Monday's start saying there were things he could build off of, but he still isn't happy where he's at mechanically.
Kazmir bounced back after a rough first inning in an 8-4 loss to the Orioles, striking out a season-high seven in 61/3 innings.
But after allowing 16 hits over his past two starts (after allowing just 18 in his first four), Kazmir is still trying to find his way.
"I just wasn't feeling like myself at all; really haven't for a while," he said. "It kind of feels like I'm not using my lower body at all, cutting things off, flying things open, having to use just my arm. That's how the ball is coming out flat and not really hitting my location. If it is, it's kind of a good pitch to hit because the hitters can see it well."
Manager Joe Maddon said he had a good conversation with Kazmir a couple of days ago, showing him support and helping him trying to think things through. And Maddon liked how Kazmir (3-3, 6.00 ERA) got into a rhythm after the first inning, which has been his trouble spot. He has a 13.50 ERA with nine earned runs and 10 walks in the first inning of starts, a 3.33 ERA with 10 earned runs and six walks in the 27 other innings.
MORE AWARDS: Evan Longoria earned American League player of the week honors for the second time this season. But Longoria deflected the praise to his teammates, saying he's getting in RBI situations because of LF Carl Crawford, whom he calls "one of the premier players in the major leagues."
In Crawford's past 13 games, he has drawn 11 walks and stolen 14 bases, including one Monday.
"With what Carl did (Sunday) and basically what he's been doing all year, it really puts me and Carlos (Peña) and Pat (Burrell) in an easy position stealing second and third and all I have to do is hit a ground ball to the shortstop to produce an RBI," Longoria said.
Longoria hit a homer Monday and leads the majors with 31 RBIs. He has an eight-game hitting streak (.364, 12-for-33) and has hit safely in 22 of 25 games this season.
IN GEAR: Crawford has credited his offseason workouts at Dynamite Sports Training in Houston for how good his legs feel, especially his hamstrings, which hampered him last season. Strength and conditioning specialist Lee Fiocchi, who helped train Crawford, said he texted him after his six-steal game: "So you wanted to get your conditioning done during the game?"
A SEQUEL? RHP Matt Garza will have a tough time topping his last outing, when he carried a perfect game into the seventh, but Maddon said a key to Garza developing some consistency is a structured routine.
"I think it comes down to self-control," Maddon said. "You saw it the other night, in a real big game, in a real big moment, how under control he was. I would like him to be really structured within his routine regardless of who we're playing, when we're playing, where we're playing.
"He's relatively young, relatively inexperienced. He's an amped-up type of guy. We need to get him to understand, staying within, keeping those blinders on in a sense to keep him focused, he could have that type of game — maybe not to that level but pretty close — more consistently, because his stuff is that good."
MEDICAL MATTERS: Maddon said Burrell was still sore after getting hit by a pitch in the rib area Sunday and decided to give him Monday off. … Backup C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder tendinitis) will start a rehab assignment with Double-A Montgomery tonight and expects to stay there through their home-stand, which ends Saturday.
MISCELLANY: Peña's two errors gave him his first multi-error game since he had three Sept. 10, 2003 at the Yankees while with the Tigers). … RHP Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect inning for Triple-A Durham on Sunday.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.