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04/12/08 7:22 PM ET

Kazmir to make extended spring start

Injured ace to throw two innings of simulated game on Tuesday

ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager Joe Maddon confirmed on Saturday that Scott Kazmir is ready to make his first extended Spring Training start, and will throw a simulated game Tuesday at Raymond A. Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg.

The Rays' ace has been sidelined with a left elbow strain since Feb. 25, and after Friday afternoon's successful bullpen session, Kazmir is one step closer to his regular-season debut.

With nine players currently on the disabled list, the Rays could certainly benefit from the return of their No. 1 starter. Kazmir led the American League in strikeouts last season and was 13-9 with a 3.48 ERA.

Tuesday's game will see the lefty toss 30 pitches, which will be broken up over two innings. Since the Minor League game will be a simulated one, Maddon said the Rays have the luxury of ending the inning after Kazmir throws 15 or 16 pitches.

"That's why we are doing that with him that first game; it's going to be a controlled game," Maddon said.

He added that the southpaw needs to adjust to sitting down and warming back up in between innings, another advantage of sending Kazmir to the Minor League complex first.

The 24-year-old will then travel to Class A Vero Beach on Friday to pitch three innings, or about 35 to 40 pitches. Maddon said that the pitches and innings will increase in increments, with the target being 90 pitches and around five or six innings. The plan is to get Kazmir into the rotation after three Minor League starts, which would set him up to debut the beginning of May.

The other Rays' starter on the 15-day disabled list, Matt Garza, is also making progress. Garza left Tuesday's game with radial nerve irritation in his right arm, and threw Saturday for the first time since the injury.

"He threw and he felt good -- he felt really good, actually, and he will throw again tomorrow," Maddon said.

Garza played soft catch up to nearly 100 feet, and will likely reach 120 feet in Sunday's toss.

Maddon had no specific timetable for designated hitter Cliff Floyd, but did note that Floyd's knee surgery was successful and he will start doing some light exercise soon. The powerful left-handed batter underwent surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear in his right knee on Friday morning.

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.