Posted on March 17, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
This spring has not gone according to plan for Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Scott Kazmir. After being left off the team’s postseason roster last year because of problems with his neck late in the season, Kazmir has once again been slowed by injury this spring, as he struggles to gain flexibility in his hip. Now the Dodgers are expressing concern about a lack of velocity on Kazmir’s fastball, which could be a sign of lingering health problems for the southpaw.
Kazmir threw 71 pitches during a simulated game against minor league hitters on Thursday. He threw just 44 of those pitches for strikes, which is a potential problem in itself. However, more troubling was the fact that his fastball was sitting between 82 and 84 mph for much of his outing, a drastic drop off from what we’ve come to expect from the lefty. Kazmir typically sits in the low 90s and was reaching 93 without issue for much of last season before his neck and hip injuries became problematic for him.
“We’ve still got to see some improvement in the velocity at some point in time,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters following Kazmir’s simulated game. “And I think he’ll say the same thing. I don’t know if there’s a certain number of miles per hour that he needs to pitch at. I think he was 82-84 today.”
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Kazmir admits that his velocity is not where it should be, but is otherwise pleased with his performance on Thursday and feels as if he’s making progress.
“I feel close, really close,” Kazmir told reporters afterward. “I was able to keep my tempo, keep my balance and use this hip to get through. It’s a lot of things that we have to focus on. It’s just a matter of putting that altogether. I don’t even want to know (about the velocity). I know it’s not there yet.”
However, the Dodgers don’t appear to be as convinced as Kazmir is that he’s actually healthy and taking positive steps towards being an asset to the team’s pitching staff.
“To have that much of a discrepancy in velocity, there’s got to be something to that,” Roberts said. “He feels strong, but it’s still not coming out the way we need it to right now.”
An MRI on Kazmir’s hip last week came back negative, and he continues to insist that he’s healthy. Kazmir has also spent a lot of time this spring working on his mechanics with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Nevertheless, Kazmir has been unable to reach his usual velocity and has been unable to truly get on track this spring.
His less-than-perfect spring now appears to have Kazmir on the outside of the Los Angeles rotation less than three weeks from opening day. Both Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood appear to have passed Kazmir in the battle for the final two rotation spots. Even Hyun-Jin Ryu has shown great promise early in spring, potentially pushing Kazmir even further down the depth chart.
Without a serious uptick in velocity and performance over the next two weeks, Kazmir’s status for the start of the season remains a serious question mark for the Dodgers. It’s possible he could start the season on the DL or even be forced into a bullpen role at some point. With two years and $32 million left on his contract, Kazmir continues to be a serious concern for the Dodgers.