LA Angels' Scott Kazmir: Make or break time in rehab

By dougmead

Beleaguered Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Scott Kazmir has now been on the disabled list for well over a month, and while his return is not eminent, he has made some strides in his rehabilitation efforts.

Kazmir gave up just one hit over 6 2/3 innings in his last start in extended spring training camp in Arizona, and is now on his way to Triple-A Salt Lake, where he will make a rehab start on Tuesday.

On Saturday, LA Times writer Mike DiGiovanna reported that Kazmir could possibly come back to the Angels as a long reliever rather than as a starter.

“No doubt, we need starting pitching depth, and we’re looking at him as a starter,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But I wouldn’t rule out anything.”

With fifth starter Tyler Chatwood producing results, that possibility is clearly in play. However, DiGiovanna noted that Kazmir was only throwing his fastball at 88 MPH, so the progress has been slow at best.

Kazmir stands to make $12 million this season. If his rehab efforts fall short, the Angels would be on the hook for the remainder of this year’s salary, plus a $2.5 buyout for next season. The Angels will exhaust every option possible before parting with that kind of money.

A trade would seem unlikely, given Kazmir’s current situation and salary. So the only option available for the Angels is hope that Kazmir can indeed turn it around, and quickly.

Kazmir told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register that going back to extended spring training in Arizona was the right thing to do at the time.

“I feel a lot better, felt like I made a lot of strides,” Kazmir said. “It was important to get into some games. The competition helped me out a lot. You can throw all the bullpens you want. Having a hitter in there is different.

“I definitely think I’m on the right track.”

Before the 2009 season, Kazmir was clearly one of the bright young stars in the American League. He regularly featured a strikeout-per-nine innings ratio of above 9.0, and featured one of the nastiest sliders in the game.

While Kazmir slumped a bit in 2009, he still put together six starts after his trade from Tampa Bay to the Angels in which he posted an impressive 1.73 ERA, and the Halos had high hopes for his future.

Now, the Angels are just hoping that Kazmir can find his way back. Otherwise, they’ll eat millions and move on.

* Photo credit Glenn Simmons via Creative Commons license

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