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03/06/08 4:32 PM ET

Notes: Kazmir working his way back

Rays hopeful ace southpaw will take mound on Opening Day

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Scott Kazmir is making significant progress in his recovery from the left elbow strain he suffered earlier in camp.

On Thursday morning, the Rays' No. 1 starter threw for the second time since the injury interrupted his spring.

"He threw really well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He played catch with [athletic trainer Ron] Porterfield. ... He threw from about 90 feet, was very firm, non-inhibited arm action. He looked very good. I'm pretty optimistic. He looked normal and he was not holding back."

Maddon anticipates Kazmir feeling fine on Friday and said the next step would be two long-toss sessions before throwing a bullpen session on Sunday or Monday.

"I think one solid bullpen and he might be ready for the game after that," Maddon said.

If Kazmir gets into a game by the middle or end of next week, Maddon said it would be a success.

"And I think by doing that, we could get him back on task possibly for [Opening Day]," Maddon said. "So we'll see how that all goes. I was looking at that today briefly. We'll be able to build to [having him as the Opening Day starter] after we know he can pitch from that game.

"Two long-toss days, bullpen on the 10th or 11th, in a game by the 14th or 15th -- something like that. That would give him three or four starts prior to having to pitch in the regular season."

When asked if he thought Kazmir would be ready by Opening Day, Maddon replied: "I've got a sense of that right now."

Percival shines: Troy Percival made his first appearance of the spring on Thursday, retiring the Phillies in order in the fourth inning on nine pitches -- including two popouts and a strikeout.

"I didn't throw many pitches, didn't jump on any," Percival said. "I think I threw one where I actually put some effort into it. I was really trying to work on my mechanics and location."

Maddon said Percival looked "crispy" and noted they are talking about minimizing the number of innings he pitches this spring since Percival has never required many innings to be prepared for the season.

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Baldelli slow: Maddon did not sound optimistic about the chances of Rocco Baldelli playing in Friday's game.

"I'm still not sure," Maddon said. "We'll make that determination tomorrow morning. He just wasn't up to speed and I have to make sure with Ronnie. I've just got to make sure with him. I'm not really sure he can play tomorrow, based on his recovery the last time out."

Modified bullpen: Percival, along with fellow relievers Trever Miller, Dan Wheeler and Gary Glover, went to Tropicana Field on Wednesday to offer feedback for a new bullpen setup, which wouldn't replace the existing bullpen along right field, just add to it.

"We just found a little better area for us to hang out," Percival said. "We just kind of moved to an area in the right-field corner with some high-backed seats that we can look through the fence there. And we're not right in front of the fans. And then we'll have a little retreat where the bathroom is, we can have our stretching tools where we can get loose and stuff like that."

The foursome of relievers brought some experience to their consultation.

"We've been in a lot of bullpens," Percival said.

Hot Stove Show: The Rays' Hot Stove Radio Show, "Countdown to Opening Day," goes lives from Wild Wing Café on Monday at 7 p.m. on 620-AM WDAE. The show will feature Mitch Lukevics, the Rays' director of Minor League operations, and catcher Dioner Navarro, who will also be available for a brief autograph session. Wild Wing Café is located at 9210 Anderson Road in Tampa.

All you can eat: The Rays will offer group-ticket packages providing guests with an all-you-can-eat ballpark experience for select home games this season at Tropicana Field.

The all-you-can-eat menu includes hot dogs, Italian sausage, popcorn, peanuts, nachos and Pepsi products. Tickets will be available for groups of 20 or more to select games. The seating area is located on the first-base side of the Press Level in sections 214 through 224 and can accommodate up to 700 guests. The price is $35 per person.

Up next: The Rays will host the Phillies in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest on Friday afternoon at Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field. Jeff Niemann will start for the Rays and will be followed by J.P. Howell, Al Reyes, Calvin Medlock, Trever Miller, James Houser and Jake McGee. The Phillies will start Cole Hamels, and he'll be followed by Fabio Castro, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Outman and Tom Gordon.

Because Thursday's game was called after five innings -- and the Rays had a rainout on Tuesday -- the Rays and Phillies have decided to play three or four additional innings on Friday so they can give their pitchers enough work.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.