The good news is that the Dodgers Opening Day starting rotation became a little clearer on Thursday.
The bad news is that it apparently will not include 33-year-old left-hander Scott Kazmir.
After making only 14 pitches in his second start of the spring against the Colorado Rockies on March 6, Kazmir was removed from the game after experiencing what was called “hip tightness.” It was later reported that the 6′-0″ / 195-pound Houston, Texas native would undergo a “precautionary MRI” the following day. Fortunately – at least it seemed so at the time – the MRI came back negative.
On Thursday, however, Kazmir pitched a five-inning simulated game against Dodgers minor leaguers Jacob Scavuzzo, Mike Ahmed and Gersel Pitre – a very formidable trio, to say the least. The simulated game went exceptionally well … for Messrs. Scavuzzo, Ahmad and Pitre, that is. For Kazmir, not so much.
Of Kazmir’s 71 total pitches, only 44 were strikes, and both Scavuzzo and Ahmed took him deep, with Ahmad also hitting what would have been a double off the wall. (Did I mention that Scavuzzo, Ahmed and Pitre were very formidable hitters?).
But even more disturbing than the two home runs and the double was the fact that Kazmir’s fastball velocity topped out at 85-86 MPH, with most of them in the 82-83 MPH range.
“I feel close, really close,” Kazmir told reporters after his five innings of work. “I was able to keep my tempo, keep my balance and use this hip to get through. It’s a lot of things that we have to focus on. It’s just a matter of putting that altogether.”
When asked if he knew what his fastball velocity was during the workout, Kazmir was less than excited to know.
“I don’t even want to know. I know it’s not there yet.”
But there is one guy who did want to know – Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, although even he is not overly concerned. Not yet, that is.
“We’ve got to see the improvement in velocity at some point in time. I think he’ll say the same thing,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if there’s a certain number of miles per hour that he needs to pitch at. I think he was 82-84 today. That’s not the number and he’ll be the first to tell you that.”
The news wasn’t all bad on Thursday afternoon. Over in Camelback Ranch Stadium, fellow left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched exceptionally well against the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. Making only his second start of the spring, the soon-to-be (on March 25) 30-year-old Incheon, South Korea native pitched three innings in which he allowed one run on three hits while walking one and striking out four.
“I feel like I’ll be ready for Opening Day,” Ryu told reporters through his interpreter, Bryan Lee after his outing. “I’m not too concerned about the spot (in the starting rotation). I just want to be in the starting rotation.
“I’m healthy right now, and that’s the only thing that matters. You have to be healthy to talk about location. Obviously, being healthy is the priority,” added Ryu. “The last two years have been tough for me. But I’m here right now with my teammates building up my stamina, building up my pitch counts, my innings. I’m going to pitch two or three more games. I feel like I’ll be ready by then.”
When the Dodger skipper was informed of what Ryu had said about his outing, he was equally impressed.
“That’s good to hear from Ryu and hopefully he can continue to progress and not have any setbacks,” Roberts said. “Yeah, he’s tracking to be ready for Opening Day. As we get closer to breaking camp, I hope he makes our decision really tough.
“He’s up to three innings right now, he’s optimistic, he feels good. And so, the next time he gets out there, it’ll be four innings,” he added. “Hopefully he continues to progress and doesn’t have any setbacks. We’ll see where we are when we break.”
Barring a miraculous recovery by Scott Kazmir and with the Dodgers set to break camp two weeks from now, it appears that one of those decisions is going to be a lot easier than the other.