Scott Kazmir was troubled by tightness in his left hip for all but his first start last season. After embarking on an intensive off-season program designed to enhance his strength and flexibility, the hip tightened up again Monday.
The Dodgers removed Kazmir after his first pitch of the second inning of his second Cactus League start. He said he could not turn or extend his body well enough to make all of his pitches, and the ones he did make topped out at 85 mph.
“The frustration is through the roof right now,” he said.
The next step is uncertain, pending clinical testing and a possible MRI examination. Kazmir said he hoped he could make his next start as scheduled, but a chronic or long-term injury could minimize the Dodgers’ chances of a significant return on their investment in him, whether in his performance for them or in trading him to reduce their payroll.
They have sufficient depth to absorb an injury. Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda are expected to head their starting rotation, with Kazmir competing with Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu for the final two spots. The Dodgers also could turn to Ross Stripling or Brock Stewart.
Kazmir, a left-hander, started 26 games last season. How often did they see him at his best?
“Maybe one start,” he said. “It’s definitely frustrating. I’m not able to show everyone, show the fans, show my teammates, what I’m capable of doing.”
After the Dodgers declined to match the final $50 million of the $206 million that the Arizona Diamondbacks guaranteed to Zack Greinke in 2015, they agreed to a three-year, $45-million deal with Hisashi Iwakuma. They declined to finalize the deal because of medical concerns and instead signed Kazmir for three years and $48 million.
Kazmir went 10-6 with a 4.56 earned-run average in his debut season with the Dodgers. He pitched only one inning over the final six weeks of the season because of neck inflammation that he traced to pitching with the hip tightness, and he did not make the playoff roster. He has been on the disabled list nine times in his 12-year career.
He said he felt the tightness — in his left hip and radiating down his left leg — while warming up in the bullpen Monday but decided to try to pitch through it.
“There was no power, no direction,” he said. “That’s a tough way to pitch.”
Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said Kazmir started some games that way last season and sometimes regained flexibility and velocity as the game went on. Roberts said he was unaware of Kazmir’s condition Monday until after the first inning.
“He thought it was going to loosen up,” Roberts said.
Kazmir said he was particularly aggravated that the injury recurred despite intensive exercises to strengthen the hip and bullpen sessions to streamline his mechanics.
“To try to have to manipulate my body just to be able to get through an outing is something that is definitely getting old,” he said.
Even with the tightness in his hip, and even with his fastball velocity down 6 mph from his average last season, he pitched one scoreless inning Monday
“I know I can go out there and compete,” Kazmir said. “I want to be able to go out there and get after it.
“Just throwing it 60-70%, the results might be good, but it’s garbage, to be honest with you.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin