It appears the comeback is complete.
After spending time in the Independent Leagues with the Sugar Land Skeeters and more recently in the Winter Leagues honing his craft, Scott Kazmir is back.
According to Cleveland.com, ESPN and multiple other reports, Kazmir signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians and is invited to spring training. Pitchers and catchers are to report on February 10 in Arizona.
It really has been a long road for Kazmir, who was once a highly touted first-round pick out of the New York Mets organization.
Kazmir is still amongst the all-time leaders in Tampa Bay Rays history, sitting in the top five in multiple categories, including wins, games started, innings pitched, strikeouts and k/9 (statistics courtesy of MLB.com). Unfortunately, control issues and injuries set off a chain of events that led to an unsuccessful stint with the Los Angeles Angels and then put him completely out of the game.
Fortunately, the Independent Leagues have a funny way of accentuating the positives of players who were overlooked by MLB teams in the draft or resurrecting the careers of people who were lost and forgotten.
The Sugar Land Skeeters took a flier on Kazmir this past year, and despite some rough patches that included a nine-walk performance against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he regained the form that once made him an All-Star, leading to people around the game to again take notice.
In 14 games with the Skeeters, he put together a 3-6 record with a 5.34 ERA, with 51 strikeouts in 64 innings, and walks, his Achilles heel, were under control for the second half of his Skeeters season, as he allowed three walks or less in five of his six final starts.
His progress was seemingly overshadowed by the performances of Jason Lane, who just signed with the Minnesota Twins and Roger Clemens, who started a comeback trail of his own. Yet Kazmir, determined to get back to the Show, continued his comeback, joining the Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican Winter League.
In five starts spanning 22 innings, he went 0-2 with a 4.37 ERA, which was nothing earth-shattering, but if you read between the lines—eight walks and 22 strikeouts—there is much more there than what the win/loss record suggests.
A decrease in velocity, which was once a negative in the later part of his career, has also shown resurgence. According to Kazmir’s Twitter account and reports through Jon Heyman of CBS, he was once again touching between 90 mph and 94 mph on the radar gun.
Much of this hype gained some steam during the baseball Winter Meetings held in Nashville. Many rumours were swirling that a variety of teams were interested (previously reported by The GM’s Perspective), and it appears the rumours were true!
Everyone looks for a comeback story, and this one fits the mould perfectly.
Devon is a manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario, Canada, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow the GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here.