It broke the hearts of Rays fans everywhere when the Rays traded Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The only thing worse was watching him completely crumble in Anaheim, managing just 5.94 ERA in 28 starts in 2010 before lasted just 1.2 innings allowing 5 runs in his only start of 2011. In 2012, there was a sense of optimism as Kazmir began a comeback with the independent Sugarland Skeeters, but Kazmir managed just a 5.34 ERA in 14 starts for them. But Kazmir’s baseball career is not over- and a return to the big leagues may not be so far away. After an outstanding Puerto Rican WInter League debut in which he struck out 6 while walking 1 and forced an 8-1 groundball to flyball ratio in 4 innings of work while showing fastball velocity in the low-90’s along with his plus slider, Buster Olney reports (Insider-only), that Kazmir is being scouted by several major league teams, specifically mentioning the Cleveland Indians as an option. It’s amazing how far Kazmir has come and hopefully he can continue impressing teams and work his way back to the big leagues. It would be an absolute thrill to see him pitching at the Trop again even as a visitor.
According to Baseball America’s Minor League Transactions for November 13th to 19th, the Rays have made two moves, releasing lefty David Newmann while re-signing right-hander Matt Buschmann.
Newmann, 27, was the Rays’ 4th round pick in 2007, 4 rounds ahead of one Matt Moore, and saw his career derailed by injuries. After signing too late to play in 2007, a torn ligament in his knee during Spring Training 2008 sidelined him the entire season. He proceeded to pitch extremely well in 2009, going 9-6 with a 3.44 ERA and a 128-46 strikeout to walk ratio in 131 High-A innings, and suddenly he was on the prospect map as a lefty with a nice sinker, a good breaking ball, and a solid changeup who had a chance to move quickly through the minor leagues as a back-of-the-rotation starter. But he managed just a 4.50 ERA and an 80-45 strikeout to walk ratio in 114 innings at Double-A in 2010 before injuring himself, and then he pitched in just 3 games in 2011 before retiring from baseball. (Maybe an additional surgery was looming, possibly a second Tommy John Surgery after he underwent the procedure in college.) The Rays thought Newmann was a safe pick who would contribute quickly to their team, but things never work out the way you expect. The safe player falls apart and the unheralded lefty Moore turns into a pitcher with the ability to be one of the top pitchers in baseball within a few years.
So far we’ve mentioned three left-handed pitchers: Kazmir, Moore, and Newmann. Matt Buschmann is a righty- but of course he bears a deep connection to yet another Rays lefty, David Price, being his former roommate at Vanderbilt. Buschmann, 28, was acquired by the Rays for cash considerations back in April and had a nice season between Double-A and Triple-A, going 7-8 with a 3.98 ERA and a 120-53 strikeout to walk ratio in 151.1 innings. Buschmann features a sinker that touches 90 MPH and a low-80’s slider that is his best offering while pitching out of a deceptive delivery. He also throws a changeup but has never been able to use it effectively, hampering him against left-handed batters. Buschmann started in 2012 and led Rays minor leaguers in innings pitched, but he’ll turn 29 in February and the Rays won’t be waiting for him to figure everything out as a starter. However, between his sinker, slider, and deception, he could profile well as a middle reliever and the Rays will retain him hoping he could fill that role when the need arises at some point in 2012- although his connection to Price certainly could not have hurt his chances of re-signing. It has to be cool for Price knowing that he could be reuniting with his old Vanderbilt teammate and roommate with the Rays next season.