Laurila: Q&A with Scott Kazmir, return from oblivion

From SABR member David Laurila at FanGraphs on June 3, 2013:

Among famous baseball quotes, perhaps none applies better to Scott Kazmir than “The game is 95 percent mental; the other half is physical.” The Cleveland Indians left-hander has had an enigmatic career. From 2006-2008 he represented Tampa Bay in a pair of All-Star games and once led the American League in strikeouts. In 2009, he began a downward spiral that saw his overpowering stuff become pedestrian, his command abysmal. He passed through Anaheim on his way to oblivion.

In a May, 2010 interview, Kazmir told me, “The past couple years, I felt like I was fighting myself the entire time. Now everything feels on point.“ Looking back, that feeling was fleeting — or perhaps he was in denial — because a year later he logged a 17.02 ERA in five Triple-A appearances and found himself out of affiliated baseball.

Some soul-searching followed. Kazmir wasn’t sure if he was done with the game or not. And if he did return, could he solve the puzzle — equal parts mental and mechanical — that had been his undoing?

Last season he returned to action with the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters, and this spring he overcame long odds by earning a spot in the Indians’ starting rotation. Showing flashes of his old self, he has a 9.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in eight appearances. His velocity is back to where it was five years ago.

Kazmir talked about his struggles and the road back — including the mental challenges — when Cleveland visited Boston in late May.

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Originally published: June 3, 2013. Last Updated: June 3, 2013.