PHOENIX — One day Scott Kazmir forgot how to pitch.
His rise and fall and potential re-rise are important to you. In the offseason, the A's signed him for two years at $22 million total. And they think — well hope — he can maybe, sort of be their ace.
Kazmir, a lefty, made his major-league debut for Tampa Bay in 2004 when he was 20 and his fastball intruded on a batter's life at 97 mph, a hair-raising number, and his slider was world-class and he was the real thing. Think young Tim Lincecum.
His best year was 2007. He led the American League in strikeouts (239), and games started (34), and won 13. He was a beast, if you can call a soft-spoken 185-pound man a beast.
Then he lost it. Just like that. He was a man with a gift for pitching who misplaced the gift. And then his life became hard.
He was hurt in 2008. Still won 12 games. Got traded to the Angels during the 2009 season. Had a losing record in 2010.
He would desperately ask teammates, “Hey look at video. Tell me what you see.” But it didn't help. “It would be a quick fix and then I would go right back to declining in my velocity. I took video of myself. A lot of stuff I was doing wrong I couldn't see on video. It's more of a feel, more weight on one side or a little bit more balance. It's hard to pick up on video.”
In 2011, he won no games. As in none. The Angels, stupefied, sent him to the minors to work things out. He worked out nothing. His earned run average in the minors was more than 17. The Angels released him, had to pay him $14 million in guaranteed money. See you later, Scott.
In 2012, he was out of baseball. Rock bottom.
There's more and it's not all grim. This story may, in fact, have a happy ending, although Kazmir has not written the ending yet. Let's pick up his narrative in his words as he discussed his life in baseball Thursday morning at his locker in the A's clubhouse.