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Friday, March 25, 2011
Is the Scott Kazmir clock ticking?

By Mark Saxon

The spring began with so many hopeful words about Scott Kazmir. They seemed hollow at the time and they seem like wasted breath now:

He worked out hard in the off-season and had gained a little zip on his fastball.

The results all spring have been uncomfortably similar to what the Angels saw last season. Kazmir nibbles around the strike zone. When he decides to get aggressive -- or when somebody "suggests" he do so -- hitters tee off.

You wonder whether Kazmir, without his slider and with middling velocity, has the tools to start games in the major leagues any more. You wonder whether the Angels would even be bothering with Kazmir if they had other options.

He allowed 11 base runners in five innings Thursday against a good-hitting Milwaukee team. His spring ERA is 7.79. His innings seem like they're endless, with all the balls and all the trips to the mound from catchers, infielders and coaches.

But there's virtually no chance the Angels will pull Kazmir from the rotation before the season starts. For one thing, they'll be paying him $12 million whether he pitches for them or not. Why not try to get something for the investment?

For another, Trevor Bell (9.00 ERA) and Matt Palmer (7.62) have been even worse. Sure, the Angels could try to get Hisanori Takahashi stretched out to start, but then they would have the same left-handed vacancy in their bullpen that troubled them last season. They could have Takahashi and Kazmir swap roles, but who's to say Kazmir would be any more effective in relief?

Plus, Joel Pineiro is headed to the disabled list to start the season and there's no guarantee the Angels won't need one of those guys to make some starts in his spot.

In other words, it's white-knuckle time until Kazmir either straightens himself out or the Angels manage to find another option. It would be surprising if they weren't at least exploring those possibilities as we speak. In fact, the Angels reportedly were one of eight teams that watched ex-major-leaguer Doug Davis throw recently.

Their patience with Kazmir seems to shrivel by the day.