The baseball career of Scott Kazmir isn’t over yet but he’s, theoretically, a long way from a big league ballpark. Released by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last summer, the once hard-throwing lefty worked out for a variety of clubs but found no takers. The best remedy for the blip? Going home apparently.
Sugar Land is located just outside of Houston, Kazmir’s native city, and the Atlantic League (independent) franchise might allow him to discover whatever pitching ailment has plagued him since leaving Tampa Bay. Kazmir, if signed, would join a few former Major League players but most notably in Houston, ex-Astros outfielder Jason Lane. Most recently a Diamondbacks farm hand, Lane hit over .300 in his first five games with the Skeeters and pitched five scoreless innings in a start as well. An Independent League Babe Ruth, if you will. But like any player serving time in this type of atmosphere, the goal is to be reacquired by a Major League franchise. As of June 10th, five Skeeters had accomplished the transition back to higher paydays.
For Kazmir, a 2002 first-round pick out of Cypress Falls in Houston, the stint in Sugar Land may represent his last foray into professional pitching. Since earning All-Star honors in 2008, his stuff simply hasn’t been the same. Strikeouts per nine innings started a steady decline while walks and runs given up rose considerably.
Some in the business will likely question whether playing so near his hometown is a risky career move borne out of the comforts of familiarity. At this point though, I’m not sure there are any other options available.
I imagine Kazmir’s agent searched for an extended spring training invite or a spot start in Double-A somewhere. And as many front offices have done, he was told no.
Perform at a respectable level in Sugar Land and Kazmir may receive another chance to throw off a Major League rubber. But even at just 29, the pitching avenues are narrowing. It must be now.