The stakes are high for Scott Kazmir this spring and beyond.
It’s a pretty good bet the Angels aren’t going to pick up his $13.5 million option for next season (which will cost them a $2.5 million buyout), making Kazmir a free agent for the first time in his career next fall. How Kazmir fares this season could be the difference between a rich multi-year contract and a minor-league deal with a bad team desperate for pitching.
He’s young enough, just 27, that some team would make him a big offer if he can put together one good, or even solid, season. Good left-handed pitching is a luxury, after all. A repeat of last season would give him limited options.
You get the sense the Angels are running out of patience. The first sign of that was their insistence he do his conditioning under their trainers’ eyes in Arizona last winter instead of back home in Houston.
Last spring, Kazmir showed up to camp with a slightly strained hamstring, a minor injury that had a ripple effect on his season, he said.
“I couldn’t play catch, because it was my lead leg,” Kazmir said earlier this spring. “I went six weeks without throwing a ball, which is something I’m not used to. It was just bad timing.”
Kazmir had the worst season of his career last summer and probably the worst season by any starting pitcher in the American League. His 5.94 ERA was the worst among AL pitchers with at least 130 innings.
Kazmir, who makes his third spring start this afternoon against the Colorado Rockies (12:05 p.m.), has looked so-so in the early going. Angels manager Mike Scioscia insists Kazmir’s velocity is up, but the hitters aren’t attesting to that. He has given up seven hits in five innings.
Kazmir has insisted his shoulder feels stronger and his delivery more sound. Soon, the results will be all that he’ll be judged on.
UPDATE: In another wobbly step, Kazmir gave up five hits and four walks in three innings to the Colorado Rockies at Tempe Diablo Stadium Wednesday.