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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Rays block Kazmir from WBC

Associated Press

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Scott Kazmir will not pitch for the United States in next month's World Baseball Classic because the Tampa Bay Rays were concerned about the risk of injury to the All-Star left-hander.

Kazmir
Kazmir

The AL champions petitioned to have Kazmir removed from Team USA because the 25-year-old missed the opening month of last season with an elbow strain suffered during spring training and then pitched through October because of the playoffs and World Series.

"With health issues that he had last year, coupled with the fact he played an extra month, we felt the prudent thing to do would be to push him back a little bit in spring, as we're doing with some of our other pitchers as well," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Tuesday night.

"We felt like the difference between pitching competitively in early March with USA on your chest as opposed to some time in the second week of March in a Grapefruit League game differed greatly in terms of what it takes to get to that point, as well as stress on the arm."

Kazmir, a two-time All-Star, was 12-8 with a 3.49 ERA in 2008. Even though he just turned 25 last month, he's already Tampa Bay's career leader in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA.

Friedman called the Team USA invitation "very well-deserved," but stressed the Rays felt Kazmir's participation "had a chance to be problematic over the span of a six-month season, and hopefully an extra month beyond that."

Last May, the left-hander signed a three-year contract extension that guarantees him $28.5 million. The deal through 2011 includes a club option for 2012 and could be worth up to $39.5 million.

"I kept him abreast of the situation along the way. I talked to him again after we got word. ... Looking at it as a positive for the organization, it gives him a chance to get ready a little slower and be around his teammates all of spring training," Friedman said. "That's what we're focusing on."