07/10/06 9:24 PM ET
Kazmir soaking it all in
Young lefty basking in All-Star week celebration
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Following Sunday's game against the Yankees, shortstop Alex Rodriguez asked the Devil Rays ace if he wanted to travel to Pittsburgh along with him and Mariano Rivera aboard the slugger's private jet.
"We had a good talk, a good conversation," Kazmir said of the flight. "About everything and about anything you could think of. It was fun. It was enjoyable to be on the same plane with superstars like A-Rod and Mariano Rivera. Those guys are Hall of Famers. They just kind of gave me a heads up on what to expect. That was kind of a good way to kick off the All-Star celebration. It was unbelievably cool. I could definitely get used to that. That's definitely the way to fly."
Whether or not he travels by private jet in the future remains to be seen, but given the way he's pitched this year, it sure seems like there's a few more All-Star appearances in the left-hander's future.
Since 2000, only Dontrelle Willis has been younger than Kazmir, who is 22 years, 5 months old. But being ahead of his time is not unfamiliar territory for him as he became the youngest pitcher to start on Opening Day since Dwight Gooden in 1986.
"I'm going to enjoy everything," he said. "I'm kind of in awe right now with all the superstars around. Hopefully I get a chance to pick up some stuff. Just to see all these guys right next to you, it's going to be a dream."
Kazmir (10-6) has already equaled his win total from last year and his rise coincides nicely with the Devil Rays' improvement as a team. The organization is under new ownership and has a new general manager (Andrew Freidman) and manager (Joe Maddon) this year and that has sparked optimism throughout the clubhouse.
"It feels like everything is progressing and you can just see it in all our player's eyes," Kazmir said. "The atmosphere is just incredible with us right now. The chemistry is there, it's just a matter of us putting it all together. It's starting to come along. We're excited for the future."
And that means that Kazmir has put the past behind him. A past that included a much-talked-about trade to Tampa from the Mets for Victor Zambrano in 2004. The Mets are running away with the NL East this year, but are in search of more starting pitching so it's no surprise that during media day Monday, Kazmir fielded numerous questions about the Mets.
"Right now I feel like I'm already past that," he said in response to whether he feels like he's made the Mets regret trading him. "I'm not even worried about that. It's not like I have a grudge with them or anything like that. I'm perfectly satisfied where I'm at. This is the best thing that could happen to me, being with the Devil Rays and getting an opportunity."
Getting to fly in Rodriguez's private plane probably is a close second.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.