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10/15/08 1:09 PM ET

ALCS interview: Scott Kazmir

Rays Game 5 starter speaks with media at Fenway

Q. Can you just kind of run through your reaction to this opportunity and if you were eager for this or more follow orders kind of thing?

KAZMIR: I was very eager for this opportunity to get back out there and try to redeem myself from my last outing and everything. It's something that wasn't a surprise. Maddon and I, we've been talking about it ever since we got to Boston about maybe changing it up and everything like that, so it wasn't really a surprise to me.

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Q. How do you explain your relative success at Fenway? You've got a 3.02 ERA here and a decent record.

KAZMIR: I really can't point my finger on one thing. It's just something that I felt like the atmosphere, I really enjoy playing on a field like this where it kind of just feels like the fans are right on top of you and you really have that adrenaline going. You have that atmosphere there. So just been fortunate enough to have some good outings here.

Q. When you go into a series knowing you could either pitch one day or you could pitch two days later, how does that affect your planning, the way you work between starts going into what's now going to be an earlier assignment than you might have anticipated?

KAZMIR: It doesn't really affect me at all, because I mean, I'm going on five days' rest right now, and like I said, we actually communicated and talked about maybe making this change before. So it wasn't anything that was really a surprise. It kind of worked out good, because it ended up being right on my fifth day.

Q. Your pitching coach, Jim Hickey, said that your biggest issue has been fastball command in the first inning. What do you say about that, and what can you do to fix it?

KAZMIR: See, that's what it feels like to me is the first inning. I think if everything goes well the first inning, everything goes smoothly, it'll give me a lot of confidence and feel like I'll be able to have a good outing.

It's just that first inning, it just seems like I would end up maybe getting the first two outs or everything would be going good, and next thing you know, you look up and there's 30 pitches and two runs across. I think the key for me is just to start out good and efficient.

Q. I know you try to keep things simple and one game like the last, but knowing that a win tomorrow would put you guys in the World Series, is that a little more difficult to keep things in perspective like that?

KAZMIR: Not really. I'm not really going to think about it too much, about this win right here will take us to the World Series. I'm just going to go out there and have fun.

Our team is real loose. It's kind of like we don't even realize the situation that we're in right now. We're just out there having fun and just playing our game.

Q. When you signed the extension with the Rays this spring, what were you thinking in terms of what was the decision making process, and what is your sense of the long term future of this team?

KAZMIR: Well, I think that it was kind of an easy decision for me coming into spring training knowing what we had, knowing what we had in the future with all the young talent that we were bringing up and the young talent that we already had the past year or so.

Like I said, it was an easy decision for me. I think that once I got off the DL and back into the rotation, I could just see you could just see that we really had something here. You could tell that we had something, we have something that's going to last for a long time with all the young guys we have that are still developing.

It was just exciting for me to be able to have the opportunity to sign long term here and be able to enjoy everything for years to come.

Q. If you could pinpoint one or two things that have been the biggest keys to the change from last year to this year, what would you pick out?

KAZMIR: There's quite a few things I would pick out, but I think the two things that maybe stand out for me is our defense, middle infield has really been kind of our backbone to how we've been having this success.

With our defense you see how we're out there and just make great plays day after day, inning after inning. It really takes a lot of pressure off the pitcher, and just kind of keeps the game going, keeps a good flow going.

I mean, that's the biggest thing for me, but also the bullpen. The bullpen has been huge for us. It seems like last year we were kind of right on the verge. We had a lot of seventh, eighth inning leads that we just didn't hold, and we needed to address that just to get over that hump, and I think we did.

Q. Given your history with Cousins, are you comforted by the fact that you can go out there, focus on what you need to do without having to worry about your history with him and whether or not you're going to get the strike zone you want?

KAZMIR: I don't think that's an issue at all. I wasn't worried about that at all. I don't think that had any way of making a decision for Joe just based on that. I think that it was just kind of a coincidence somehow how that happened, so it doesn't bother me at all.

Q. You mentioned after a couple starts this year it took you a little longer to get into a little bit of a groove in the first inning or so. What do you attribute that to, a mechanical thing or something with your warmups?

KAZMIR: I can't really if I knew exactly what it was, it wouldn't happen, I'll tell you that. It's just frustrating how you feel like you feel good, everything ends up going the way you want to, and the next thing you know, it just kind of has a snowball effect and you end up having too many pitches and give up a couple runs, and you kind of leave yourself in a hole from the very start of the game.

I mean, it's just important for me to concentrate and get the first inning first couple innings out of the way and make it very efficient so I can get deep into the game.

Q. What was your give and take with James Shields about this issue and whatnot the last couple days?

KAZMIR: I mean, it really wasn't anything that we were talking about, really. We were just waiting kind of for the word. Shields and I were just talking about, you know, what's going on, what are we going to do, and then next thing you know, we get the word that it was going to be changed. So it wasn't really anything that was going on, it was just something that we were just waiting for the decision.

Q. Your success at Fenway, relative success, has been mentioned already, but is there a difference at all in the way you approach the Red Sox at Fenway compared to at Tropicana Field just because of the ballpark and the way their offense works?

KAZMIR: Not at all. The way the Red Sox swing the bat in Fenway, I mean, it's you can tell they really enjoy playing here. They enjoy being here and having that home field advantage. That's definitely not it. I just keep my game plan the same and try to just go out there and be efficient and attack the strike zone.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.