LHP Scott Kazmir threw a 45-pitch simulated game against three teammates Friday, fared well and pronounced himself well on his way to rejoining the rotation.
"Everything felt good," he said. "The changeup, the slider, the fastball - everything was coming out nice. I was hearing from the hitters the fastball felt live; I was hitting my spots."
The two-time All-Star went on the disabled list May 22 with a strained quadriceps after his ERA soared to 7.69. He said a program of drills and bullpen sessions designed to straighten out his mechanics and get his velocity back has helped.
"That was the first time of me pitching on the mound Friday where I wasn't thinking about my mechanics," he said. "I just went out there and hit the spots."
Manager Joe Maddon said Kazmir passed Friday's test and that his next step will be to throw "60 to 70 pitches" in a Single-A minor-league game next week in Port Charlotte. He said Kazmir will have to be ready to comfortably throw 90-plus pitches before the Rays will bring him back.
"The biggest concern when you're out that long is injury," Maddon said. "It's a classic moment for tendinitis to pop back up if you try to do too much too soon. It's just like a spring training situation, so we've got to be careful how we bring him back."
Gabe Kapler, Red Brignac and Joe Dillon faced Kazmir on Friday. Kapler agreed with Maddon that Kazmir looked good.
"I thought his fastball had some good late life to it, and I thought his changeup had some deceptive depth," Kapler said. "And I saw some confidence in his eyes. I saw good stuff overall."
Friday night was supposed to be Pat Burrell bobblehead night - 18 miles north at the Clearwater Threshers game.
Burrell was to be recognized for helping his former team, the Phillies, win last year's World Series. The Threshers canceled the giveaway Friday, as well as six others that were scheduled.
The move came after the Rays informed the Phillies they were enforcing a licensing agreement that prohibits the use of other MLB brands by minor-league teams within Tampa Bay's television market.
"Basically, the agreement does not allow us to use any of the Phillies' brands or logo after spring training," said Jason Adams, assistant general manager of the Threshers, the Phillies' Single-A Florida State League team.
Adams said the timing of the Rays' involvement was "weird" and he didn't know "what their thinking was or why."
Rays vice president of communication Rick Vaughn said the Phillies recognized they were in violation of the agreement and "we appreciate their attention to this matter."
The Threshers already have had bobblehead giveaways featuring Phillies players Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. They will take a loss on the other orders and issue ticket refunds for the bobblehead nights to fans who request them, Adams said.
Focus on location
RHP Andy Sonnanstine will make his 13th start of the season tonight knowing he needs to pitch better against right-handed hitters. Lefties are hitting .248 against him, but righties are hitting at a .416 clip with nine home runs.
Maddon has talked about the No. 4 starter needing to pitch inside more aggressively.
"There are a lot of different things I need to sharpen up," Sonnanstine said. "Like different assortments of breaking stuff to righties and lefties, and being a little smarter with that, and locating a little better.
"I don't have the gift of a 97-mph fastball, so I really have to spot up. I need to use my location as much as possible."
Sonnanstine has pitched much better at home than on the road. He is 3-0 with a 4.30 ERA in four Tropicana Field starts.
Burrell returned to the lineup after missing a month with a neck strain and he batted sixth, one position below his former spot. ... Rapper Ludacris will perform after tonight's game as part of the Rays' Summer Concert Series.
Tony Fabrizio, Rick Mayer