Kazmir likely to start season on DL
Rays want ace to build back arm strength after elbow injury
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays ace Scott Kazmir will "more than likely" start the season on the disabled list, Joe Maddon said, although the manager is confident Kazmir's stay will be short.
"We really consider it minor," Maddon said before Sunday's game. "But to us, it's major in the sense that we don't want it to reoccur at the end of the season."
Kazmir suffered a left elbow strain in an intrasquad game on Feb. 25. He threw a live batting practice session on Thursday, and was reported to be on schedule earlier in the week and slated to start Sunday's game against the Tigers. The Rays scratched the idea Saturday morning.
At the time, Maddon said he still wanted to see more arm strength from Kazmir, who is no longer on a timetable to start Opening Day. While No. 2 starter James Shields will get the ball in Baltimore on March 31, Maddon said he is confident Kazmir will be ready to go in the early part of April.
The 24-year-old Kazmir, who did not make the initial decision to be held back, understands where management is coming from.
"I'd rather miss just a couple starts early in the year than miss a couple months during the year," Kazmir said. "I just want to make sure we get it right."
Kazmir said that in previous seasons in the Major Leagues, he may have tried to push his arm along prematurely to get back on the mound. Now, with three full seasons under his belt, Kazmir understands it is a long year.
"I'm slowly learning," Kazmir said.
And while the lefty understands there is no need to rush, he believes it will only be "a couple more days longer to get where we need to be at."
Kazmir, who says he's in no pain, took Sunday off to rest, and he says he will meet with Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey to discuss the next step.
"He's always going to want to play, because he wants to pitch, he wants to be out there, and he belives he can be," Maddon said. "We're just trying to pull the reins back on him a bit so we don't run into a problem later on."
With Kazmir's absense from the early regular-season rotation, Maddon entertained the prospect of using other arms in the rotation, specifically Andy Sonnanstine and J.P. Howell.
Although both pitchers have been used in relief work, Maddon said they "would be able to be stretched out easily" if the Rays chose that option.
Edwin Jackson, Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel are also vying for a rotation slot, and Maddon acknowledges that Kazmir's injury has created an opportunity that the Rays will need to monitor carefully.
"We will try to analyze that the best way we can," Maddon. "We think we have good choices, and we will try to make the right choice."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.