Scott Kazmir will open season in Angels’ rotation, whether he has earned spot or not

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Scott Kazmir hasn’t done much this spring to warrant a rotation spot, but Manager Mike Scioscia said Friday that the struggling left-hander, who has a 7.79 earned run average, 23 hits allowed, 12 walks and 10 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings, will open the season in the Angels’ starting rotation.

Scioscia, however, did have an interesting response when he was asked if Kazmir had earned a spot in the rotation.


‘Earned?’ Scioscia said. ‘Define ‘earned.’ He will start the season in the rotation.’

The manager was then asked if Kazmir had pitched well enough to justify a rotation spot.

‘Kaz has not pitched at a level we feel he can pitch to,’ Scioscia said. ‘There’s some disappointment in that, but we think the upside is still there to where we want to see where this goes in a regular-season game. Nobody is trying harder than Kaz. Though he’s made strides, he’s not where he can be and where we need him to be.’

The Angels, who traded three players, including promising young infielder Sean Rodriguez, to Tampa Bay to acquire Kazmir in August 2009, have too much invested in the pitcher to give up on him this soon.

They owe him $12 million in salary this season and another $2.5 million to buy out his $13.5-million option for 2012, so they want to give him at least a few regular-season starts to see how he does.

Their top triple-A starting pitching options, Matt Palmer (bronchitis) and Trevor Bell (shoulder issues), have been slowed this spring, and neither has pitched well enough to push Kazmir from the rotation. And their top two pitching prospects, Garrett Richards and Tyler Chatwood, are not ready.

But Kazmir, who went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA last season, won’t have months to right himself. Once left-hander Scott Downs (broken left big toe) returns to the bullpen in mid- or late-April, the Angels will have the option of moving left-handed reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who started 12 games for the New York Mets last season, to the rotation.

The Angels, with slugger Kendrys Morales going on the disabled list, won’t have the kind of offense to compete in the games Kazmir starts if the pitcher gives up runs in bunches. And if Kazmir can’t at least pitch deep into games, it will tax the bullpen.

‘There’s no doubt for every major league team, the starters set the tone, you want them to give you a chance to win every night, and Kaz is one-fifth of that,’ Scioscia said. ‘But if we’re not controlling the game from the defensive end, it’s going to be tough for us, because that’s the area we’re built on. Our team puts a lot of stock into pitching, especially starting pitching.’


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