Five weeks separate the first day of March from the start of the regular season. That leaves 35 days for Dodgers pitcher Scott Kazmir to rediscover the harmony of his delivery and avoid the discordant notes created by his performance in a 7-6 victory against the Giants on Wednesday evening.
In his Cactus League debut, a disjointed performance that lasted 36 pitches, Kazmir left midway through the second inning after his command became erratic. It is unreasonable to place excessive emphasis on one game in this environment, especially for a veteran. As he seeks to solidify his place in the starting rotation and synchronize his mechanics, Kazmir found solace in incremental progress.
Kazmir spent the first two weeks of camp taking stock of his delivery, which broke down last season as he dealt with weakness in his hip and inflammation in his neck and back. After extended sessions with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, plus guest instructors Orel Hershiser and Eric Gagne, Kazmir said he believes increased repetition will transform his motions in muscle memory.
"You almost want to take a breather and go back out there and keep working on it, keep doing reps," he said. "Because that's what's going to happen for me to get that feel and be to do it consistently."
The battle between Kazmir and his body is one subplot in the saga of the next month. The Dodgers must winnow a seven-man field to fill the final two openings in rotation. Attrition will do some of the work, as appears to be the case with Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is still operating under the cloud of his shoulder surgery in 2015.
Ryu remains behind schedule compared with the other starting pitchers. The team delayed a session of live batting practice scheduled for Wednesday after Ryu experienced some soreness in the abductor muscles near his left thigh. So Ryu threw a bullpen session instead.
"He came to camp [looking] great, and he's really exerted a lot of energy in performing, through his 'pens and stuff like that," Manager Dave Roberts said. "For us, [when we] hear about a little something, we just err on the side of caution."
The updated plan for Ryu, which is dependent on his ability to recover after assignments, calls for him to throw live batting practice on Saturday. The delay decreases the already unlikely scenario that Ryu would begin the season as a member of the starting rotation. Given his fragility, it is difficult to imagine the team accelerating Ryu's timetable unless in an emergency.
Kazmir looks like a favorite to earn one of the spots. After a lengthy bullpen session on Wednesday night, he looked spotless in the first inning. He retired outfielder Denard Span, infielder Eduardo Nunez and outfielder Hunter Pence on a trio of ground balls.
The second inning was less tidy. First Kazmir hit third baseman Aaron Hill. Then he uncorked a wild pitch. Giants outfielder Jarrett Parker smoked an RBI double off the right-field wall. Kazmir walked shortstop Gordon Beckman. A passed ball by catcher Bobby Wilson advanced both runners, and Parker scored on a groundout.
With two runs on the board, Roberts came to get Kazmir. Afterward, Roberts declined to sound an alarm about the outing.
"The most important thing is he got his pitch count up," Roberts said. "He says mechanically he felt sound. So I think, for us, that's a win."
Seager sidelined because of shin bruise
Corey Seager is dealing with a bruise on his right shin after fouling a ball off his leg on Monday. An X-ray was negative, and Roberts expects him to return to action on Friday.
De Jong dealt to Seattle
The Dodgers acquired Mariners infield prospect Drew Jackson and pitcher Aneurys Zabala in exchange for minor league pitcher Chase De Jong. Jackson, 23, plays shortstop and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. He hit .258 with a .678 on-base plus slugging percentage last season for class-A Bakersfield. Zabala, 20, posted a 2.88 earned-run average as a reliever in his second tour of the class-A Arizona League.
De Jong, 23, finished 2016 with a 2.82 ERA between double-A Tulsa and triple-A Oklahoma City. The trade clears a space on the 40-man roster, which now contains 39 players.