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Kaz feeling, looking like Kaz of old

Someone in the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse asked Scott Kazmir how he felt Monday morning, and the lefty said, “Like Tiger Woods.”

Then Kazmir went out and pitched into the seventh inning again, and the Rays won again.

Maybe that’s not as dominating a performance as we’ve seen from Woods on the final day of a tournament, but for Kazmir, that’s coming in under par.

“Strikes, strikes, strikes, strikes, strikes,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said when asked what he liked most about Kazmir in the Rays’ 10-4 win against the Kansas City Royals.

Maddon said he’s seriously thinking of moving leading hitter Jason Bartlett to the leadoff spot and getting Willy Aybar’s bat into the lineup more often. About time, some might say.

The same can be said for Kazmir’s performance as of late.

As much as the Rays need more offense, they need more of the old Kaz.

Getting the Kazmir of 2007 would be the same as adding pitching at the trade deadline.

The good news: Kaz said he’s feeling more and more like the old Kaz.

“I feel like I got my swagger back a little bit,” he said.

Kazmir allowed the Royals six hits. He struck out five. He threw a season-high 82 strikes.

Maddon liked what he saw. All those strikes, strikes, strikes, strikes, strikes, Maddon said, were the result of Kazmir repeating his delivery, something Kazmir didn’t do last year and in the first half of this year.

Kazmir said the mechanical issues are no longer an issue. His slider has some slide, and he can locate his fastball.

Monday was Kazmir’s fifth straight start of six innings or more. He is the first Rays pitcher to win back-to-back starts since the All-Star break.

Aside from better run support for James Shields, the one thing the rotation lacked this season is consistency. Kazmir is beginning to show consistency. And you know what they say about good pitching? It’s contagious.

So Kazmir said he wasn’t kidding Monday morning when he said he was feeling like Tiger Woods.

“I was serious about that. You know Tiger, he goes out there and believes he can win every tournament. He feels like he can make every shot,” Kazmir said. “That’s how you got to approach everything.”

There was time when Kazmir said he felt that way before every start.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “It was like no one can touch me. It seems like I lost it a little bit, because I wasn’t putting anything on the baseball. I was all over the place. You kind of lose a little bit of confidence.”

Now Kazmir pitches with confidence. He has the quality starts and the wins to prove it.

“I’m on my way to where I want to be,” he said.

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