Dodgers News: Uncertainty Hovers Over Scott Kazmir Following Latest Simulated Game
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Needing to address the vacancy left in their starting rotation by Zack Greinke’s departure in December 2015, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Scott Kazmir to a three-year, $48 million contract. Kazmir’s deal included an opt out after the 2016 season, which would allow him to test a relatively weak class of free-agent starting pitchers.

Marred by injury throughout last year, the veteran left-hander unsurprisingly elected to remain with the Dodgers. While Kazmir battled hip, back and neck injuries in 2016, he spent the offseason focusing on exercises to create better stability and mobility in the lower-half of his body.

That made a start against the Colorado Rockies on March 6 all the more infuriating for Kazmir. He was removed after throwing one pitch in the second inning, and later diagnosed with hip tightness. A subsequent MRI came back negative.

Kazmir has yet to return to Cactus League action, and when that may occur remains unclear. He was projected to miss at least one turn in the rotation.

Kazmir threw five innings in a simulated game on a back field at Camelback Ranch on Thursday to mixed results but was encouraged by the rhythm he was able to establish, via Bill Plunkett of the O.C. Register:

“I was able to keep my tempo, keep my balance and use this hip to get through. It’s a lot of things that we have to focus on. It’s just a matter of putting that altogether.”

However, several reports indicated Kazmir’s fastball velocity sat in the low 80s. Perhaps a byproduct of that, he surrendered two home runs. Kazmir averaged 91.4 mph with his fastball last season.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts isn’t overly concerned at present time, but noted the 33-year-old would need to increase his velocity in order to factor into the starting rotation:

“We’ve got to see the improvement in velocity at some point in time. I think he’ll say the same thing,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if there’s a certain number of miles per hour that he needs to pitch at. I think he was 82-84 today. … That’s not the number and he’ll be the first to tell you that.”

As Kazmir continues to work toward returning to a live game, the Dodgers’ rotation may be taking shape with Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood joining Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who went three innings on Thursday, remains somewhat of a dark horse.

Each of the aforementioned pitchers is ahead of Kazmir, who has thrown a combined 2.2 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) while battling command issues in two starts this spring.