While the Los Angeles Dodgers entered Spring Training with some question marks in their starting rotation, Scott Kazmir, generally speaking, was not part of them. The veteran left-hander figured to slot in behind Clayton Kershaw and with Kenta Maeda, offset the loss of Zack Greinke.
Kazmir was shaky in his Dodgers debut, then was hit hard in a follow up act. At that point, he very much was among the questions that needed to be answered. Prior to taking the mound in another Cactus League game, Kazmir started in a B game on a backfield at Camelback Ranch.
Perception held it was a decision aimed at helping Kazmir work through issues that were plaguing him. However, he refuted that notion after his tuneup at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night. “It wasn’t necessarily figuring things out for me,” Kazmir said.
“I feel like me having that B game game early on just kind of gets those up and downs innings-wise, and you are able to kind of stretch yourself out and not necessarily worry about results.”
Kazmir went 11 days between Cactus League outings, and was much sharper in the three starts that followed the B game. He finished the spring with 4.2 innings of work against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, collecting four strikeouts and allowing just one unearned run.
“First inning, I was a little inconsistent and it’s been like that pretty much the whole spring, but I was able to get out of it and make pitches when I needed to,” Kazmir said. First-year manager Dave Roberts alluded to Kazmir’s outing as productive and doesn’t have any concerns over the lefty.
“The velocity was good. We talked about it, in Arizona the ball just doesn’t move as well,” Roberts said. “Today, the breaking ball was sharp, changeup was good and fastball velocity was good. We got him up to 73 pitches, so it was productive. He’s ready to go.
“As a veteran pitcher, it went as planned. There was a little too much made of velocity early and getting guys out. Where he’s at right now, I think he’s ready to make the start on the fifth. If he makes his starts, then I think the numbers will all line up.”
Overall this spring, Kazmir finished 0-1 with a 5.51 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 16 strikeouts and five walks in 16.1 innings pitched. Outside of allowing five runs to the Angels on March 9, Kazmir allowed two runs or less in each of his other four outings.
Having been down this road before, Kazmir pays little attention to Spring Training statistics. “I feel like I have a routine that I go through to really feel good, really feel confident with all my pitches,” he said.
“It doesn’t necessarily translate into good results, but still it’s a process that I really feel like helps me through Spring Training. I’m in a good place right now and ready to go.”
Part of Kazmir’s process is knowing when to ramp up the velocity, as he did on Thursday to end the first inning with a strikeout. “That’s kind of how I pitch now. I like to not just go max effort every single time out,” Kazmir said.
“Of course, days you’re feeling a lot better it’s a little different story, but I like to be able to add subtract to my fastball when need be, especially when I’m ahead in the count to maybe get the strikeout or make a quality pitch in a crucial situation.”
Kazmir is entering his 12th year in the Majors, though first in the National League. The 32 year old missed all of 2012 after getting released by the Angels in June 2011.