Desperate times call for desperate measures and what was happening with Scott Kazmir certainly qualifies. In what may be their last ditch effort to salvage what is left of Scott Kazmir, the Halos have put him on the disabled list in hopes him getting healthy and finding whatever talent/skill/confidence/health he lost. Will it work? What if it doesn’t?
Now you see me. Now you don’t. But will you ever see me again?
When it comes to Kazmir, the Halos have done nothing but preach patience, patience and more patience. But with Kaz being put on the DL with a back problem (be it real or imagined), the team has signaled that their patience has all but run out with their beleaguered hurler. This is the last thing they have in their bag of tricks and they know it, and so does Kazmir.
But like any good magician, they’ve saved their best trick for last.
As much as I joke about whether or not this back stiffness issue is real or not, getting Scott Kazmir out of the majors and into the minors is a a very good idea. His lone start this season proved just how unready he is to face big league hitting, and if this move does nothing else, it saves the Angels from a certain loss every time Scott took the mound. I don’t see how anyone could complain about that. That is all fine and good, but this move to the DL is really just a means to an end and that end is getting Kazmir somewhere where he can work on his many glaring problems without him being constantly lambasted by media outlets and angry bloggers (not that I would know anything about that). Kazmir now has the freedom to go back to square one. He can take as much time as he wants to work on the side with pitching coach Mike Butcher to figure out whatever mechanical adjustments he needs to make. Once he is comfortable enough to face live batters again, the Angels just have to send him out on a rehab assignment at whatever minor league level they deem fit (probably Single-A Inland Empire to start then eventually Triple-A Salt Lake). That will give Scott a handful of starts to refine his delivery and build his confidence so that when he is summoned back to the big leagues, he will be as ready as he possibly could be.
I like this plan. Actually, I love this plan, especially since it saves everyone the awkward conversation of asking Scott’s permission to option him back to the minors. But, as the quote goes, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.
As well thought out and logical as this plan appears, it is no guarantee for success, though that is still an option. Really though, there are three possible ways I see this little gambit playing out:
The Success Scenario – Make no mistake, the bar for success on this plan is set pretty low. At this late stage, I don’t think anyone is still harboring any illusions that Kazmir is going to return to All-Star form or anything close. No, what the Halos have to be hoping for is building Kazmir back into an average 4/5 starter. In part, the Angels probably just want Kazmir to get it together so that they get at least a little bit of the return on their financial investment in him (not to mention the talent they traded to acquire him), but getting a useful season out of Scott saves the team from having to dip into their wafer-thin starting pitching depth. I can’t emphasize enough just how much the injury to Joel Pineiro creates a need for Kazmir to rebound. We are only in the second week of the season and Angel management has already called up stud pitching prospect Tyler Chatwood (who isn’t nearly close to being big league ready) to help fill out the rotation, a move that smacks of desperation. If they are going to get a few more decent months out of Kazmir, this is the best way to do it. While he may be on the DL with a physical problem, I still fimly believe that most of his struggles are mental. I’ve written in-depth about this before, but I think it is imperative that Kaz take a whole new approach to pitching now that he has a diminished arsenal. It is no small task, but he was not going to be able to make the necessary changes on the fly in the majors, so this demotion of sorts was entirely necessary. If the Angels give it enough time (which they might not, remember Kazmir was DL’d last season under similar circumstances and only made one rehab start), I do believe Scott is at a place mentally where he will embrace whatever changes the coaching staff asks him to make and desperate enough to make those alterations work.
The “That Was a Lot of Work for Nothing” Scenario – Call me a cynic, but I think this is the most likely scenario. Kazmir will embark on his rehab assignment like a good soldier and do his best to do everything the coaches ask of him. However, his rehab outings will reveal almost nothing about his prognosis for returning to the majors. Scott will make a few minor league starts in which he will neither get hammered nor will he dominate. Any struggles he has against the inferior competition will be chalked up to him “working on some things.” Any flashes of ace-like talent will be easily written off as, “What do you expect? He’s facing kids.” We will all do this dacne for a few weeks before Kazmir finally gets reactivated from the DL and yet nobody will know what to expect upon said return. The only certainty will be that Scott will have “earned” at least two or three more starts to prove himself to the team once again. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.
The Worst Case Scenario – We’ve all prepared for the worst with Kazmir, so it wouldn’t be a shock if this move ended badly for him. Let’s face it, his struggles have lingered for over a year and it might finally be time to admit that they can’t be fixed. If he gets sent out on rehab and still ends up getting smacked around by minor leaguers, the Angels are going to have to cut him loose. They’ll probably call him up for one more token start just to prove that they aren’t acting rashly, but then they’ll hand him his walking papers (which still includes a $12+ million check, so don’t weep for Scott totally). At least this way the Angels can say they did everything the could and gave him every possible chance before finally cutting bait.
Honestly, however this plays out, and I do hope it works out well for everyone involved, I just hope it resolves itself quickly. Not only is it depressing to see a player that was once so promising and still so young falter so badly, but, frankly, I’m getting really tired of having to write about.