September Is Proving Ground for Los Angeles Angels' Scott Kazmir

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Scott Kazmir #19 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 3, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Los Angeles Angels' starting pitcher Scott Kazmir has been a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Purchased by the Halos last August for two minor-leaguers and a player to be named later, the Angels honestly thought they were receiving a player who, at 25, was looking ahead at several years of continued maturity and dominance.

The 2009 season for Kazmir had been a major disappointment with the Tampa Bay Rays. Off and on the disabled list and struggling with his fastball command, Kazmir strung together several quality starts in mid- to late-August. The Angels came calling, and the Rays couldn't unload Kazmir fast enough.

Sure, Kazmir had a bloated contract (three years, $28.5 million); however, the Angels took the chance that he would be able to turn the corner, harness his control issues, and be the pitcher that looked dominant from 2006-08.

In six starts for the Angels to end the 2009 regular season, Kazmir was effective, with a 1.73 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and just 10 walks. His control issues came back to haunt him in the postseason however, when he gave up nine earned runs in 10.2 innings, walking eight in two starts.

The 2010 season has been a major disappointment for Kazmir. Now 8-13 with a 5.98 ERA, he continues to battle control issues, particularly with his fastball, and patience is growing thin in the Angels organization.

"The lion's share of his issues have been command," manager Mike Scioscia said. "His inability to get the fastball in good zones and bring his changeup into the game on more counts has really set him back. The slider inconsistency is not as big an issue as fastball command.

"We have confidence in Scott's ability to get to a higher level, but certainly, if options come along that will make you better, you have to consider them."

That does not exactly qualify as a ringing endorsement for the struggling left-hander.

Kazmir will likely have at least five more starts in the 2010 season. While he was effective in his last start on Wednesday (6 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 K), he will have to show the Angels that he is capable of showing consistent command of his fastball in the strike zone and that he can effectively call upon all of his pitches with confidence.

If Kazmir proves unable to turn the corner, the Angels will have a tough time dealing him this offseason because of his contract. He is due $12 million next season with a $13.5 million club option for 2012 that can be bought-out for $2.5 million. The Angels would likely have to pay a large chunk of that for any team to be interested in Kazmir's services.

Kazmir will have just under four weeks to prove he belongs.

"The major leagues is always a proving ground, whether you’re Torii Hunter or Peter Bourjos, whether you're Scott Kazmir or Ervin Santana," Scioscia said. "It’s a proving ground every day, a challenge to show that position is yours, that you can help the team win."

You can follow Doug Mead on Twitter, @desertdesperado.


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