The last time Scott Kazmir called this part of the country home, his career was on the verge of bottoming out.
Kazmir signed a three-year contract with the Dodgers last week, but 4 1/2 years ago he was pitching for the Angels. His velocity was down and he couldn’t get anyone out. With $14.5 million remaining on his contract, the left-hander was released midway though the 2011 season.
“It was definitely a low point, me getting released by the Angels,” Kazmir said.
Speaking during an introductory conference call Tuesday, the 32-year-old left-hander reflected on how, after nearly pitching his way out of baseball, he came back to secure a $48-million deal with the Dodgers.
He made stops in the independent Atlantic League, as well as the Puerto Rican winter league.
“Kind of wanting to take a step back and start from scratch, being able to go back to fundamentals and really teach myself great habits and get away from the bad habits I created,” he said. “It was going back to the drawing board. I did a lot of drills I did back when I was a kid.”
Kazmir was 20 when he broke into the major leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was a two-time All-Star at 24. But no matter how steep his decline, he said he never considered retirement.
“I always had the motivation, just because I knew it was still in there,” he said.
By the time he returned to the major leagues in 2013 with the Cleveland Indians, he was a new pitcher. Once armed with a fearsome fastball-slider combination, he used a more varied arsenal of pitches that included a changeup.
“I feel like I’ve been getting better ever since,” he said.
He was an All-Star with the Oakland Athletics in 2014.
He had a record of 7-10 but a solid 3.10 earned-run average last year, which he split between the Athletics and Houston Astros.
“Back in the day, it was just get it and throw it,” he said. “I don’t know how I did it. I just did it. Now, being able to know my body a lot more and being a lot more knowledgeable about the game, it’s a huge advantage.”
Kazmir said about a dozen teams checked in with him this winter when he was a free agent.
He settled on the Dodgers, who included a provision in his contract that would allow him to return to the free-agent market next season.
“From a business perspective, it’s always good to have options,” Kazmir said. “That being said, I would be honored to finish my career with the Dodgers. I really would.”
Front office addition
Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos will join the Dodgers front office, according to multiple reports. Anthopoulos, 38, stepped down from his position with the Blue Jays in October rather than remain with the club in a reduced role under new President Mark Shapiro. Anthopoulos was credited with making moves — specifically, trading for Josh Donaldson, David Price and Troy Tulowitzki — that helped the Blue Jays reach the postseason last year for the first time since 1993.
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