The assignment called for five innings of work, and so in the fifth, two innings after he left the game, Scott Kazmir was still throwing in the Dodgers bullpen at Surprise Stadium.
The moment fit the tenor of his puzzling spring, an image of Kazmir at war with himself rather than with any opponent. When he arrived in Arizona in February, Kazmir did not possess a grip on his delivery. As camp winds down this week, he remains in search of mechanical cohesion, as shown Sunday during a 3-2 loss to Texas.
Kazmir may have to wait a while for another opportunity against major league competition. The Dodgers break camp after a game Wednesday, and Manager Dave Roberts conceded the obvious on Sunday afternoon: Kazmir is not ready.
"Where he's at right now, it just doesn't make sense, just competitively, to be out there on a major league field," Roberts said.
In a three-inning, 66-pitch outing, Kazmir's fastball exceeded 86 mph on two occasions. Mostly the pitch hovered between 83 and 85 mph. He walked five batters and hit two. He gave up a solo home run to Rangers slugger Mike Napoli in the third inning. Napoli redirected a flat changeup and parked it high up on the berm beyond the left-field fence.
"It's just frustrating, knowing what I have hitters set up for," Kazmir said. "All I have to do is power through it, and it's not there. That's the most frustrating part. Because I feel like as soon as that syncs up, it's go time."
The most likely scenario is that Kazmir begins the season on the disabled list because of his nettlesome left hip, which would afford him time to face hitters either on a minor league rehabilitation assignment or in extended spring training. Kazmir conceded his hip remained an issue, as it was throughout an injury-plagued 2016. "It feels like I don't have my lower half," he said.
Kazmir did not sound thrilled about the prospect of staying at Camelback Ranch when the team departs for Los Angeles. But he acknowledged it was a possibility.
"We're going to have to sit down and talk about everything," he said. "It's tough, because honestly I feel like it's almost there, because I've made strides. You make one pitch and you're like, 'Aha! There it is.' It just jumps out of your hand. I'm just going to keep at it."
The Dodgers will sort out the final two spots in the rotation this week. Brandon McCarthy, who threw in a simulated game Sunday, looks like a favorite for one spot. The team will decide between Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood for the fifth slot.
Kazmir had not pitched in a Cactus League game since March 6, when he left a start in the second inning due to his hip. On Sunday, Texas loaded its lineup with regulars: Adrian Beltre and Napoli, Rougned Odor and Jonathan Lucroy, Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo. The prospect of competition made Kazmir's adrenaline surge.
"This felt like a regular game to me," he said.
He leaned on his cutter, which avoided the barrels of the Rangers' bats. Yet his fastball had little life. His offspeed pitches lacked deception. The outing incited concern.
Despite various ailments in 2016, Kazmir still produced a fastball that averaged 91 mph. The pitch clocked into the mid-90s at points during the summer. But it has been stuck in the 80s this spring.
"For anyone's velocity to be down that much, this late in camp, is telling," Roberts said. "I just know that Scott will say himself that he's not right."
Seager might skip Freeway Series
Disappointed with the quality of his at-bats since returning from an oblique injury, shortstop Corey Seager may stay at Camelback Ranch next week when the rest of the team faces the Angels in the Freeway Series. Seager is considering piling up plate appearances in minor league games so he can get ready for the season.
"That's certainly an option," Roberts said. "I think to get him in a major league ballpark is not a priority. It's more about if he can accrue more at-bats down here, that's what makes the most sense."
Seager made five plate appearances and played four innings at shortstop on Saturday. He cut his outing short due to soreness in his legs and feet. He is expected to appear in another minor league game Monday.