Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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‘Definitely a chance’ Kazmir back this week
Posted Jun 23, 2009 by Marc Lancaster
Updated Jun 23, 2009 at 06:18 PM
The reviews on Scott Kazmir’s start last night in Durham were unanimously positive, from the pitcher himself to coach Brian Anderson, who was there (and DROVE back to Tampa 11 hours overnight with his fellow lefty) to the reports Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman got.
Friedman said Kazmir’s status will be evaluated after the pitcher throws a bullpen session tomorrow and there is “definitely a chance” he’ll be able to rejoin the rotation by this weekend. Kazmir said he’s ready and was pleased with his pitches and his efficiency after needing only 77 pitches to get through six innings—something that hasn’t happened in a long time, Maddon pointed out.
“I think I got a lot more efficient as the game went on,” Kazmir said. “My changeup was feeling really good, the slider had a lot of depth to it, and my fastball had a lot of life to it – I was getting a lot of late swings and it looked like they had trouble picking it up.”
But this may have been the most important advancement: “I felt like I wasn’t thinking out there. I was having fun.”
It’s been a while since that happened for Kazmir, so the fact that everyone seems so excited about what has transpired with the changes to his mechanics definitely appears to be a positive sign for the pitcher.
Of course, his return will mean bad news for somebody—whether it’s Andy Sonnanstine, Jeff Niemann or David Price.
Price stepped in when Kazmir went on the disabled list, but the Rays indicated then they planned for Price to stay up once he came up. His uneven performances so far have left open the possibility he might be sent back down for more fine-tuning, but that would seem to run counter to the way the Rays have approached his development.
Niemann has been a bit erratic in his recent starts, but he also leads the team with six wins and has been fairly reliable most of the year. Plus, he doesn’t have options and no one really knows how he’d react to pitching out of the bullpen.
That may leave Sonnanstine as the odd man out of the rotation, simply because the team has more flexibility with him. The Rays have been very pleased with the way he has responded the last few times out, but he has always been viewed as somebody who could be successful out of the bullpen and this might be the domino that pushes him in that direction. He also has minor-league options left, but considering he’s been in the majors since midway through the ‘07 season with plenty of success, it’d be a surprise if the Rays went that route.
What will happen? Who knows? But the decision won’t be an easy one.