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Kaz and an injury potpourri

Posted Mar 16, 2008 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Mar 16, 2008 at 10:47 AM

There are always a few points in any season when the first eight or 10 minutes of the pregame meeting with the manager is devoted to discussing one injury after another, and we’ve arrived at that point here. Joe Maddon gave a slew of updates today, and of course Scott Kazmir was at the top of the list for topics of interest.

Maddon acknowledged it’s “probably more than likely” the left-hander will not be ready for the start of the season. He didn’t say Kazmir would open the year on the DL, but that would seem a definite possibility now. Maddon talked about Kazmir waiting a couple more days to play catch, and of course he would have to work back up to a bullpen session after that, then have a few more days before getting into a game, and March is quickly running out of days.

Both Kazmir himself and the team insist he is not dealing with any new pain. The Rays say they’re just worried about not letting him into a game until they’re convinced his arm is at full strength, and Kazmir is coming around to their line of thinking. As he said this morning, if he’s not completely ready he might try to compensate in another way and something really bad could happen.

“There’s no rush on this whole thing,” said Maddon. “We believe that he’s fine, but we just want to make sure that the arm strength is there, that we take care of this right now so there’s no lingering effect during the season.”

The Rays did get good news on another player whose ability to open the season appeared in jeopardy yesterday. Shawn Riggans, who has had terrible luck with injuries, was convinced he had broken his left hand when he got smoked by a Blaine Boyer pitch yesterday. But X-rays were negative and Riggans hopes to be back out there in a few days.

“I definitely thought it was broken,” said Riggans, “but I got the break that I’ve been looking for.”

As for the others on the medical report, Carl Crawford (leg stiffness) is out again today but is on the travel squad for Tuesday’s game against the Phillies. Andy Cannizaro (back pain) apparently is still a few days away from getting back in a game and is not on the travel roster for Tuesday. Kurt Birkins has an inflamed ulnar nerve and neither he nor the team seems to have a firm grasp on when he’ll return to game action. Chad Orvella (biceps tendinitis) is “coming along” according to Maddon but there’s nothing definitive on when his next appearance might come.

Kazmir’s murky status certainly would appear to open the door for someone else to make at least one or two of the starts that would have gone to him in early April. Maddon said Andy Sonnanstine and J.P. Howell are both candidates and wouldn’t say one has the edge ahead of the other, even though Howell has been used entirely in relief this spring. He also said Jeff Niemann was still a possibility after a nice outing yesterday. Both Howell and Sonnanstine are on the list of possible pitchers behind James Shields today along with Troy Percival and Grant Balfour.

Maddon also said he planned to get Elliot Johnson into today’s game in center field. He has been taking balls out there during batting practice this week but hasn’t done it in a game yet. 

Here are today’s lineups:

Iwamura 2B
Bartlett SS
Pena 1B
Upton CF
Gomes RF
Longoria 3B
Hinske DH
Guzman LF
DiFelice C
Shields P

Curtis Granderson CF
Placido Polanco 2B
Gary Sheffield DH
Marcus Thames 1B
Jacque Jones LF
Edgar Renteria SS
Brandon Inge 3B
Ryan Raburn RF
Max St. Pierre C
Dontrelle Willis P

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