(Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)
After discussing the early progress of Japanese righty Kenta Maeda on Wednesday, today we’ll stay with the starting rotation, but change course a bit and have a quick peek at Dodgers’ left-hander Scott Kazmir.
Based on his first several outings of spring camp, the initial evaluations have not been good. Seeing a decrease in velocity and lack of consistent control, Kazmir may be creating feelings of apprehension among the Dodgers’ fan base, if only in the early stages of spring training.
Kazmir has made two “official” Cactus League starts so far, and the results have been dreadful. He’s tallied only 3-2/3 innings, surrendering 12 hits, two walks and seven earned runs, calculating to a 17.18 ERA and a 3.818 WHIP.
He was also able to work in a “B” game on Monday, facing a mix of White Sox major league and minor league hitters on the back fields at Camelback Ranch. Kazmir said his arm felt “great,” despite an ugly outcome.
“In the first inning, three of the first four batters got hits, and the Dodgers ended the inning because Kazmir had thrown enough pitches. In the second, two of the first three batters got hits, and the Dodgers ended that inning, too. In the third, Kazmir mostly abandoned his fastball, and he hit two batters on breaking pitches.”
Over the course of the first three weeks of spring training, his fastball has been measured at 84-88 MPH, after averaging over 93 MPH on his four-seamer in 2015.
“I’m not trying to overthrow. I’m still trying to build up arm strength,” Kazmir told Eric Stephen of True Blue LA. “That’s something that comes. You don’t try to let it go too much trying to get velocity. It’s about repeating delivery right now.”
He said he expects his velocity to increase as he builds arm strength over the next few weeks, and wants to continue to focus on sharpening his mechanics.
After the sim game on Monday, Kazmir told Stephen that developing a rhythm with his catchers is a point of emphasis for him during camp, and that he feels like he’s making progress.
“That’s what spring training is about, to have that relationship where he knows what I’m thinking and I know what he’s thinking. It’s at that point where we’re playing off each other, having a good rhythm, knowing how fast I like to work,” Kazmir said. “There are a lot of things in the pitcher-catcher relationship, and I feel like we ironed it out in the later innings.”
Despite the rough outings, Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts isn’t concerned.
“With veterans you definitely give them a little bit more rope. With a guy that’s proven and he’s done it, time and time again,” Roberts said. “There’s definitely no concern right now, and he knows the adjustments he needs to make.”
Kazmir was signed to a three-year, $48 million contract in December, which also includes a player clause to opt out after only one season. The deal involves deferred money as well, consisting of three payments of $8 million each, spread out from 2019-2021.
At 20 years of age, Kazmir began his career in Tampa Bay with Andrew Friedman as his GM. Despite his young age, Kazmir quickly became one of the better left-handed starting pitchers in the American League, primarily relying on a mid-90s fastball coupled with an extremely effective slider.
Nagging injuries led to inconsistencies from 2008-2011, and eventually forced Kazmir out of MLB entirely. After logging endless hours of individual work and persevering through several independent and winter league seasons, Kazmir signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians before the 2013 season and eventually earned a spot in their big league rotation .
Since returning to the Majors, Kazmir, who turns 32 in January, has compiled a 3.54 ERA with a 8.1 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9. In 2015, he was 7-11 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.208 WHIP in 31 starts between Oakland and Houston, recording 155 strikeouts and 59 walks in 183 innings of work.
The Dodgers already have three starting pitchers, Brett Anderson, Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, set to begin the season on the disabled list. Frankie Montas, who may be utilized as a starter at some point in the future, is already on the 60-day disabled list after having rib resection surgery.