Scott Kazmir went from earning All-Star honors and leading the American League in strikeouts to fighting for a rotation spot on a new team.
The left-handed veteran hasn’t pitched in a major league game since in 2016, as a left-hip injury kept him out the entire 2017 season with the LA Dodgers.
He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in December as a part of a massive deal that sent Matt Kemp to LA.
Kazmir is hoping to grab one of two available spots on the Braves’ rotation, but Luiz Gohara and Sean Newcomb are two of the front-runners in that conversation.
And they have two qualities in their favor that Kazmir doesn’t: They’re young and have clean injury records.
Kazmir entered 2018 Spring Training with the goal to prove his worth and show that he is capable of contributing to a very young Braves team.
Despite some struggles on the mound, the 34-year-old has remained positive through three starts this spring.
“So far so good, even though I still have a lot to improve on,” Kazmir said.
He says those improvements primarily include being more consistent on the plate and continuing to build up more strength.
Kazmir’s arm strength has suffered due to his injuries, and the effects can be seen in his fastballs. They’ve been in the upper 80 range all spring, which is a substantial dip from where he once was.
Returning to full strength has been a tough process for the former ace.
“That physical part has been the name of the game for me,” Kazmir said. “Just being able to stay healthy and get through spring training. That’s kind of the hardest part about a season.”
Though he’s dealt with physical obstacles on the road to his comeback, Kazmir says he’s still simply trying to “get his feet under him” in preparation for the start of the season.
Kazmir’s 2018 Spring Training
The three-time All-Star made his Grapefruit League debut on Feb. 25 against the Nationals.
He pitched only one inning and walked the first two of four batters he faced.
However, he escaped the inning without surrendering a run after he got Bryce Harper to ground into a double play and caught Trea Turner trying to steal a base.
Kazmir settled in a bit by his second start against a tough Yankees lineup as he pitched a pair of scoreless innings with one strikeout, two hits and a walk.
The veteran’s third start against the Astros seemed to culminate the up and down spring he’s had.
Against the second batter he faced, Kazmir watched as Derek Fisher sent the ball sailing into the air at Champions Stadium, bouncing off the scoreboard then plummeting to the ground early in the first inning.
That homer was one of two runs given up by Kazmir through three innings pitched. He allowed four total hits through those three innings.
Despite his inconsistent play this spring, the Braves could still take a chance on Kazmir because of his experience as a veteran.
If he can stay healthy through the final month of Spring Training, that might just be enough to earn him that last rotation spot.