Just about from the moment he arrived in Tampa Bay, Scott Kazmir was the greatest pitcher the Rays had ever seen. Armed with an overbearing fastball and an unhittable slider, Kazmir delivered four dynamic seasons from 2005 to 2008 and put the Rays on the map as he dominated the Yankees and Red Sox and became a beacon of hope for a Rays franchise that had seen nothing but failure before he came along. However, as quickly as he had burst onto the scene, he suddenly departed, fading in 2009 before the Rays traded him away and winding out of baseball after one disastrous start in 2011.
But the story of Scott Kazmir is not done yet. Still just 29 years old, Kazmir pitched well in Winter Ball to earn an opportunity with the Cleveland Indians on a minor league contract, and his comeback attempt could not have gone any better so far.
Craig Calcaterra of HardBall Talk watched Kazmir as he pitched in a B game at the Indians' spring home in Goodyear, Arizona, and the scouts Calcaterra talked to were quite impressed. Kazmir sat at 91-92 MPH with his fastball, and while he did have some trouble commanding his breaking pitches, observers liked his sharp slider out of the same arm slot out of his fastball, the pitch that was Kazmir's signature offering during his time with the Rays.
Kazmir's journey to return to the major leagues is just getting started and he has a lot more work to do if he wants to challenge for a spot in the Indians' rotation. But it's great to see Kazmir back on the mound no matter what happens- and Rays fans can't help but dream of the possibility of Kazmir starting against the Rays at Tropicana Field when the Indians' fifth starter slot comes up for the first time on April 6th.
Here are your links for today:
- Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com discussed the Rays' latest enigmatic left-hander, Mike Montgomery, with Mayo and Joe Maddon praising his pure stuff and Maddon saying that "As he learns how to pitch better and is less predictable, I think you're going to see the results become better." We know from the Rays' low-cost relief signings how the Rays love to acquire pitchers who already have great stuff and make slight adjustments to help them achieve their success, and Montgomery fits that profile as well, only with even greater upside given that he was touted as a potential ace just two years ago.
- Maddon also had high praise for infield prospect Cole Figueroa talking to Mark Topkin, calling him "a big league player." Figueroa has never been touted much as a prospect, but if there's any team that can maximize the potential of their utility-type players, it's the Rays.
- And of course, we can't have any prospect discussion without touching on Wil Myers, who told Wayne Coffey of the NY Daily News that he doesn't feel the pressure to arrive in the major leagues and immediately perform like a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Nice to see Myers staying levelheaded- he's talented all right, but almost no one can meet that standard.
- Zach Meisel of MLB.com wrote an inspiring piece on everything the Duncan family has overcome after two members of the family struggled through brain tumors. The article gives a completely different perspective on Rays non-roster invitee Shelley Duncan and is certainly worth the read.
- Finally, Joe Maddon's colonoscopy went fine. Obviously it's great to see that he's healthy, but why his exam became such a big story I have absolutely no idea.