Scott Kazmir was the Pizza Man in Tampa.
Hitters went home hungry. Fans ate him up.
"After 10 Ks, they'd give away a personal pizza," the Indians' left-hander said Friday of his salad days with the Rays. "So after nine strikeouts, that's all you'd hear."
He heard it often when he led the American League in strikeouts in 2007, a season after becoming baseball's youngest Opening Day starter since Doc Gooden.
No one is suggesting the Indians consider a similar marketing campaign quite yet. I'm just saying he looks more like the pitcher Terry Francona hated to face as Red Sox manager and less like the guy who bottomed out with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
As recently as two years ago, there was absolutely no payoff attached to Kazmir, whose ERA climbed to 17.02 while throwing for the Salt Lake Bees in the Angels' minor-league system. The Angels couldn't pitch him, let alone market him. They could only cut their losses, releasing Kazmir with $14.5 million remaining on his contract.
"Mentally I was completely drained," Kazmir said. "You go however many years trying to fix stuff ... it gets really stressful. Physically, I felt fine. My delivery was out of control. I was a pitcher who didn't know who I was out there because of everything I tried to change."
Kazmir didn't wake up without his fastball overnight due to devastating injury. He slowly lost his velocity and his feel for pretty much everything else while still attempting to get batters out. Couldn't throw his breaking ball. Lost command of a slider Jason Giambi remembers as filthy. At one point, he packed 205 pounds on his wiry frame in attempt to find missing velocity.
Cleveland Indians' Scott Kazmir keeps impressing in bid to revive big-league career
Cleveland Plain Dealer | Mar 2