Kazmir Needs to Rediscover Himself Quickly…..Or Might Be Gone
Hearing more than a few whispers from the West Coast that former Rays southpaw hurler Scott Kazmir might get one more chance to save his Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim roster spot. It is incredible that the one Rays pitcher who once lead the American League in strikeouts is considered on the ropes at the ripe age of 27.
I then decided to hit the website 60ft60in.com and found out that the old “Rays Kazmir who used to toss in a fastball between 92-95 mph has been MIA on the mound recently. The website had Kazmir listed between 88-92 mph now with his heater that used to put players on their heels and set up his slider and change-up to be exclamation points to his strikeout totals.
Gone is the “hair on fire” Kazmir that used to post a bushel of first pitch strikes, then toy a bit with hitters hoping to get them guessing wrong on his secondary pitching arsenal. I truly thought the 2009 Trade Deadline deal that sent him to the Angels and his former Rays, now Angels Pitching Coach Mike Butler would be the new epicenter of a transformation again of Kaz back into a mound terror.
Now the only terror is in the eyes of Angels fans, and some of us old Rays fans who still think he has something left in the tank. It is incredible to think that the Rays saw this fall from grace coming with Kazmir, instead focusing on dumping his extreme salary instead of a pitcher on the decline.
At the time of the trade I had mixed feelings on the move not knowing if an infielder who was the “Player To Be Named Later” INF Sean Rodriguez would amount to anything in a Rays uniform. Funny how life sometimes reshuffles the cards and tonight you will see S-Rod in his most demanding and important start of the season, subbing for Evan Longoria again at Third while Longo’s tummy muscle heals.
You know Kaz will enjoy this visit back not only to a place where his Ferrari is still parked, but to have a few late night I-Hop reunions with buddies Longoria and B J Upton to try and remember a better moment in Kaz’s career. I do not know what it is like for a baseball player to stand at the edge of the abyss and see their career possibly at a critical crossroad, but I have stood at that point before.
Hopefully Kazmir can reach down within himself and pull out that fiesty competitor who once was brazen enough during a rehab assignment in the Spring of 2008 to predict a Rays playoff push plus was the man on the hill during their last World Series game start.
I want Kaz to dins again that guy who used to breathe fire and intimidate and have hitters second guessing at the plate. I would love to see the velocity increase and his pitching arsenal possibly be extended with a cutter or knuckle-curve. I just want to see the old Kaz that used to stride to the mound begging teams to find a way to beat. Now he is just beating up himself on the mound by inconsistency and frustrations that stem from his location and power not clicking in unison.
In the end, if his next start is his last Angels appearance and the team decides to eat his huge contract, let’s hope he stays in the game, possibly as a reliever. Years ago I toyed with the idea of asking why the Rays never considered Kazmir as a possible closer or Bullpen guy when his velocity and shoulder were bothering him back in 2008.
Back then Kazmir was needed extremely in a budding Rays young rotation and the idea would have either been met with laughter or a possible ribbing by everyone around me. But today maybe that same option can be revisited. If the Angels do not see Kazmir as a long term alternative in their rotation, can he be adjusted with any degree of assurance into a relief option that would not only possibly re-energize his career, but give him a MLB pitching option that could prolong his career.
You only have to look at former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz to see that sometimes a step back can be productive and bring you back into the fold not only as a competitive piece of your team, but let you adjust and possibly re-channel your energies until you can again find that niche for you in baseball.
Believe me, if I had a chance to sit with Kaz for a few moments in an I-Hop somewhere in Tampa Bay over the next two days, I would try and pick his brain and see where he is mentally and physically in regards to the game right now.
A step back is always better than a step outside the comfort level of the team. You have to ask yourself if the Angels are in an “all or nothing” decision point with Kazmir, or if they too would entertain a relief option with the possibilities of Kazmir earning his millions as a key component of the Angels Bullpen.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Kazmir has turned his pitching around before, done the almost impossible and made believers out of critics before. The problem is this time it might be for all the marbles, and I wonder Kazmir has the “Devils Eyes, Aggies or Bumblebees marbles in his bag of tricks.
I guess we shall see on Saturday, April 9th in Anaheim when Kazmir squares off against the Toronto Blue Jays. Kazmir has come a long way since his Major League debut against the Seattle Mariners on August 23, 2004. By the way, he won that debut going 5 innings with a 4-hitter and 4 K’s in a Rays 9-0 victory. Hope a little bit of his past rubs off on Kazmir that day…or else…………..