Sunday, May 20, 2018
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]

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