Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Kazmir gaining from struggle

OAKLAND, Calif. — It could happen tonight, the moment when Scott Kazmir rediscovers his proper pitching mechanics, finds the missing couple miles an hour on his fastball and takes off on the kind of powerful run he and the Rays are anticipating.

But in the interim, he's becoming a better pitcher.

As he feels his way to the proper delivery that allows him to cut loose, Kazmir has had to be more exact with the location of his pitches, and more resourceful with his repertoire, making more use of the changeup since getting some tips from teammate James Shields.

And going into tonight's start in Oakland with a 2-1 record, 1.69 ERA and a string of 12 scoreless innings in his first three starts since coming off the disabled list, he must be doing something right.

"It seems like it's gonna make me a lot better pitcher, just not having close to the stuff that I want and still getting hitters out," Kazmir said. "I think it's going to be really good for accuracy because right now I've mainly got to hit spots. I fall in and out once in awhile, but for the most part, it feels like I'm throwing the ball where I want to."

The pursuit of proper form can be an inexact and frustrating process for any pitcher; with Kazmir, it's a matter of getting his feet, body and arm all moving the same direction.

"It's not necessarily one thing, it's just my mechanics — getting out there and driving toward the plate instead of just falling off every single time," he said. "I'm not getting that much torque, and it seems like I'm using too much arm right now. I just want to get my whole body into it."

When he is right, he said he doesn't have to concern himself with anything on the mound but his next pitch and not such annoying details as the positioning of his shoulder or the extension of his arm.

"When you've got everything going, your mechanics going, you're not thinking out there," he said. "You're not thinking, 'Okay, I've got to keep my shoulder in just to make this pitch right where I want it.'

"You're thinking, 'I'm going to throw it right through the catcher.' By the time the ball's getting thrown back to you, you already have an idea of what you've got next. That's just the way it is."

For now, he's making do.

"He's pitching with a restrictor plate," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's not wanting to let it go; he just doesn't feel the command when he just lets it go. I know it's frustrating to him, and I also believe he's going to find that feeling on his fingertips.

"That's where it comes from, right there. And once he gets that feeling, he's going to take off again."

That's what happened in the second half last season, when everything clicked and Kazmir went 8-3 with a 2.39 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break.

And that's what he's expecting to happen again.

And sooner than later.

"I can just feel it in every bullpen. It's any start now when it's just going to click," he said. "It's just going to be fun once we get everything together."

Marc Topkin can be reached at
[email protected]

Comments
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Published: 12/16/17
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Published: 12/14/17
Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

UPDATE, 4:02: It doesn't sound like the Rays and Cardinals will be making a deal today, Derrick Goold writing for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Cardinals execs "leave the Walt Disney Dolphin resort with good feel for what Tampa Bay would be willin...
Published: 12/14/17
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Published: 12/14/17
Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Inspiring veteran LHP Jonny Venters and intriguing prospect 1B/OF Joe McCarthy are among 13 players invited to major-league spring training camp with the Rays.Others coming as a result of signing minor-league contracts with invites are: RHP R.J. Alan...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as ...
Published: 12/14/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

UPDATE, 11:09: RHP Steve Cishek, who was a very effective addition to the Rays pen last season, has reunited with pitching coach Jim Hickey, agreeing to a deal with the Cubs.UPDATE, 10:40: Like most teams, Rays officials are heading out of the meetin...
Published: 12/14/17
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Published: 12/13/17

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Published: 12/13/17