GLENDALE, Ariz. — The results, as told by a radar gun and his line score, were not kind to Dodgers pitcher Scott Kazmir on Monday.
That’s part of the reason why Kazmir chose not to pitch in a Cactus League game, where innings get long and fans groan and unflattering radar-gun readings tend to light up Twitter. Instead, the 32-year-old left-hander threw to Yasmani Grandal in a “B game” on the back fields at Camelback Ranch against the Chicago White Sox.
The game was limited to five innings. Each half-inning was limited to four hitters maximum. There were umpires on the field and coaches, executives and minor-league teammates watching from outside the park. There was also no cost of admission, making the mini-matchup between Kazmir and Chris Sale an unqualified bargain. Kazmir faced mostly minor-league hitters, so the results-may-not-be-not-typical disclaimer applies here.
Now, about those results.
Kazmir’s fastball was clocked in the 86-to-89 mph range by a scout in attendance. Kazmir was clocked throwing 89-95 last October for the Houston Astros, and he said his reduced effort is by design.
“I don’t try to overthrow. We’re still building arm strength,” Kazmir said. “If I let it go, it might be too many that miss arm-side. That’s something that comes. You don’t really try to let it go too much to try to get velocity. It’s all about repeating and delivery.”
Kazmir began his first inning by allowing three straight singles, the last of which drove in a run. He then induced a fly-ball out and the inning was over. In the second inning, a 35-year-old journeyman named Vinny Rottino (career batting average: .165) doubled to the left-center gap to drive in another run. In the third inning, Kazmir hit two of the four batters he faced.
The fourth and fifth innings were different. Kazmir worked quicker, taking less time to agree on a pitch with Grandal. He retired all six batters he faced.
“The first couple innings, things didn’t go well,” Kazmir said. “We were going to try something and it just didn’t work out. We were both out there thinking too much.”
In the fourth and fifth, Kazmir said, “we really clicked, had good rhythm out there.”
Kazmir said he was working on a couple pitches. More than that, “I was just trying to get that catcher/pitcher relationship down to where we were in sync and had a good rhythm going.”
In his first two Cactus League starts, Kazmir allowed 12 hits and seven runs (all earned) in 3 2/3 innings. Monday, Kazmir said he doesn’t anticipate throwing another “B” game, so the fruits of his labor will be on full display in five days. He’s lined up to pitch Saturday at home against those same Chicago White Sox.