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Lowell Cohn: A's Scott Kazmir didn't return to majors overnight (w/video)

  • Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir, center right, motions to throw without a ball during spring training baseball practice Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the Athletics as a free agent during the offseason. Teammate pitcher Eric O'Flaherty, left, looks on. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

He was hurt in 2008. Still won 12 games. Got traded to the Angels during the 2009 season. Had a losing record in 2010.

He would desperately ask teammates, "Hey look at video. Tell me what you see." But it didn't help. "It would be a quick fix and then I would go right back to declining in my velocity. I took video of myself. A lot of stuff I was doing wrong I couldn't see on video. It's more of a feel, more weight on one side or a little bit more balance. It's hard to pick up on video."

In 2011, he won no games. As in none. The Angels, stupefied, sent him to the minors to work things out. He worked out nothing. His earned run average in the minors was more than 17. The Angels released him, had to pay him $14 million in guaranteed money. See you later, Scott.

In 2012, he was out of baseball. Rock bottom.

There's more and it's not all grim. This story may, in fact, have a happy ending, although Kazmir has not written the ending yet. Let's pick up his narrative in his words as he discussed his life in baseball Thursday morning at his locker in the A's clubhouse.

"It takes awhile to explain all that," he said, sounding like a man who still doesn't have the full explanation. "I lost my way towards the end of my time with Tampa Bay and ended up being a little tight or inflexible. I ended up compensating for things, manipulating my delivery. I taught myself bad habits. My velocity went down. All my pitches went down. Just my direction towards the plate was off. I wasn't using my legs. I couldn't find it, I couldn't feel it."

In 2012, he was on no team and he started working out on his own. In his backyard. He has a mound in the backyard of his house in Houston and he would throw to a friend from the mound. It's not like big-league teams were sending coaches to Kazmir's house. He was as alone as a ballplayer can be. He did yoga. Trying to get his body to feel right, flexible. He was so out of whack. He couldn't even get his leg kick right.

And then he joined a team in 2012. We're not talking the Yankees or Dodgers or A's. He joined the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League, joined because the team was 20 minutes from his house and what the hell.

The Atlantic League is an independent league, unaffiliated with a major-league team. Out there. As far out as you can get and still be a baseball player. Some other Atlantic League teams are the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers, and the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish. You get the idea.

The Skeeters' owner called Kazmir and said, "You can get your feet wet again. You don't have to get thrown to the wolves right from the get-go."


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