Scott Kazmir used to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. And on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, it was never disputed that he was their ace. But something happened. He lost velocity on his fastball and the bite on his secondary pitches. Slowly, insidiously, everything slipped away from him. From 2008 to 2011, Kazmir went from an ace to out of baseball. Now Kazmir is back on a mound. He’s a long way from any team even considering for a second to sign him to their Triple-A franchise. But he’s making progress, and maybe someday he’ll get back to the major leagues.
In 14 starts with the Sugarland Skeeters, an independent baseball franchise in Houston, Kazmir has gone 3-6 with a 5.34 ERA, a 7.4 K/9, a 4.6 BB/9, and a 1.1 HR/9 in 64 innings pitched. Those are not good numbers no matter how you slice them. But he struck out an above-average amount of batters (the team average was 6.6), and although his walk and homer rates leave something to be desired, they’re progress from the horrific numbers he posted from the last two seasons. He averaged less than 5 innings per start, but he had one game where he went 8 innings allowing no runs on just 2 hits for his first win since 2010. And the numbers may not mean too much, but according to his Twitter feed, Kazmir has gotten his velocity back, sitting in the low-90’s and even touching 95 MPH at times. Part of his struggles could be simply getting used to having that much velocity at his disposal again. Kazmir is beginning to round himself back into form. And he just might get back.
Remember that Scott Kazmir is only 28 years old. Also recall that he has made over 30 million dollars in his career. Kazmir doesn’t need to embarrass himself at independent ball. Why is he doing this? He still has the desire, the competitiveness. It was Kazmir who predicted that the Rays would make the postseason in 2008, eliciting laughter from anyone who thought they knew about baseball. He may fail. But he’s not going to go down until he knows that he put all the effort in that he possibly could and leaves with no regrets.
Kazmir is taking nothing for granted right now. He knows that the odds of him making even a single appearance in the big leagues ever again are very long. But he’s going to do everything he possibly can to get there. Best of luck to Kazmir as he continues his comeback. It would be an absolute joy to see him back in the big leagues, and hopefully someday that will happen.