Scott Kazmir has been out of professional baseball since the middle of 2011. That season, he made just one start the the Los Angeles Angels, lasting just 1.2 innings, departing after giving up five runs on five hits, two walks, and a homer.
He thinks he can be one of the best pitchers in the game in the near future.
As Mark Hale from the New York Post writes, the 29-year old former ace has spent the last year trying to get himself right from the issues that turned him from one of the brightest stars in the game to someone watching from the outside, and believes that he has done just that.
Whether he’s right or not is something the Cleveland Indians will quickly find out when Spring Training opens up later this month.
Kazmir, who was signed by the team to a minor league contract, will go into the Indians camp on a mission not only to get a job on a major league rotation, but to get back to being the type of 5.3 fWAR major-league pitcher from 2007 that could lead the league in strikeouts.
To do so, he’ll have to regain the lost velocity that was the main culprit of his demise. Kazmir used to have a blistering fastball that topped out in the high 90s, and has been good when he has averaged around 92 mph or above. Case in point: he struggled for the Rays in the first part of 2009 because his velocity was down to 90.7, and had an excellent run to close the season with the Angels when the number surged back to 92.5.
It wasn’t something he could maintain; in his lone start in 2012, his fastball averaged just 86.5 mph.
That kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen to pitchers in their primes, and not ones with just little over a thousand innings on their arms. Perhaps Kazmir is one of the unlucky ones, but the Indians are hoping that the radar run will read out a fair share of numbers in the mid-90s when they being preparing for the 2013 season.
If the 29-year old can show that he can sustain that kind of velocity over the course of Spring, he could have an inside track to make the Indians starting rotation. Though the team’s group of starters doe not lack high-upside talent, it does so in lefties, as they do not currently feature a southpaw.
The team is hoping that Kazmir can return to form and give them the presence from the other side that they need. It’s been a few years since Kazmir has been an effective pitcher, but the fact remains that he was a two-time All Star by the time he was 25, and he won’t turn 30 until next year.
Still, it’s a very long road, and the odds are stacked against him on his ambitious goal to be one of the best in the game again; but, if Kazmir can show that he can still throw hard, and that the litany of shoulder injuries are behind him, there might just be a role for him on the 2013 Indians yet.
It’s not the top, but it’d be a start.