Scott Kazmir and the short road back?

February, 15, 2011
2/15/11
10:50
AM PT
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Scott Kazmir insists he doesn't want to talk about last year.

If you had a 9-15 record and 5.94 ERA, you probably wouldn't want to discuss it either.

The Angels sound confident the left-hander is a good candidate for a bounce-back season, however, and not just because he might have scraped rock bottom.

At the team's insistence, Kazmir revamped his off-season conditioning program to concentrate on strengthening his left arm, regaining flexibility in his shoulder and finding balance in his delivery. He has been working out, under the team's auspices, in Arizona since Nov. 1. Last year, he remained at home in Houston and worked out on his own.

The idea isn't to rebuild Kazmir's delivery so he regains the form that made him one of the toughest pitchers in baseball five years ago. It's to incrementally improve him so he's a semblance of the pitcher the Angels got from the Tampa Bay Rays in August of 2009.

If he can't make that leap, Kazmir's grasp on a rotation spot could be a slippery one.

"For him to get back to that level is really a short bridge that we can get to," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "If he's going to go all the way back to how he threw in '06, it's going to take time and game experience to start to feel some of those things."

Kazmir began his throwing program earlier than in previous seasons and had already thrown 12 bullpen sessions before he even arrived here at camp. He said he feels as if he's getting more life on his fastball than he did last season. Kazmir was delayed last spring by a strained hamstring and never felt fully comfortable on the mound.

A left-hander with a low 90's fastball and a good changeup should be able to compete in the major leagues, regardless of whether he ever rediscovers his long-lost slider.

"I feel kind of antsy. I don't know what the word is to describe it," Kazmir said. "I'm just ready to get out there and show what I can do."

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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