Scott Kazmir’s baseball renaissance continues

Photo Credit: Tony Capobianco

Regardless of what happens to Scott Kazmir with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 2016 season is just another chapter of his renaissance. It’s been four years since he returned from baseball’s abyss in 2013.

There was a time when Kazmir was one of the top pitching prospects in the New York Mets system before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for Victor Zambrano and becoming one of the best young pitchers in baseball from 2004-07.

As Kazmir and his Rays were ascending to the World Series in 2008, the seeds of his downfall were planted in the form of arm and groin strains. He made 27 starts along with five postseason starts, but compensating for those minor muscle strains caused a gradual loss of his mechanics that sent him to Anaheim and spiraling down to baseball’s abyss.

“Honestly, I think a lot of people thought it was mental when it had nothing to do with that,” Kazmir said. “It was something where I just physically couldn’t get there. I couldn’t get to a point where I felt comfortable.”

When Kazmir hit rock bottom and out of baseball at such a young age, it was unbearable for him. At the age where a chunk of Major Leaguers usually begin their careers, his career – one filled with promise, fulfillment and unexplainable heartbreak – seemed over.

“It was tough,” he said. “It was a frustrating time. I’m in my back yard throwing bullpens. I couldn’t even watch major-league games. I’d see one on TV and I’d turn it real quick. It was tough. I knew that I still had it in me. I just had to keep working. It was definitely some trying times during all that.”

Even when he puts what he felt at the time of his release from the Los Angeles Angels was his best stuff, the radar gun read 84 MPH. About over a year and a half were spent trying to figure out what went wrong and what the solution was.

Dominican winter ball failed miserably for Kazmir but the epiphany the brought him back to reincorporating his lower body in his pitches led him to finally make real strides towards a comeback. And independent ball was the perfect place for Kazmir to test out his newfound solution.

“I honestly think being in independent ball and having a little bit of that comfort, being off the radar, to be able to get my feet wet again, I think that helped me out a lot,” he said.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, located right by Kazmir’s hometown of Houston, Texas, has a history of MLB presence, including former MLB third baseman Gary Gaetti, who manages the Skeeters and invited Kazmir to join the team.

“[Gaetti] said: ‘Just come out here. You can get your work in. It’s not like you’re going to be with an affiliate to where you give up a couple runs in the first inning, you have a high pitch count and you’re out of there and the next thing you know, we start changing things with your delivery,’” Kazmir said.

It also helps that Kazmir associated himself with the right people during his comeback. Kazmir got to work on his comeback with pitching legend Roger Clemens in 2012. He signed with Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians in 2013 and finished the season with a 2.57 ERA and a 13.8 K/9 in September to propel the Tribe to the playoffs.

Kazmir was able to parlay his comeback with a two-year deal with the Oakland Athletics and have made the playoffs in 2014 and in 2015 after being traded to the Houston Astros.

If he makes the playoffs with the Dodgers in 2016, that would make four straight playoff appearances since his comeback. That matters more than mere numbers.

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Sports Kave senior writer

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