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Kazmir confident he can improve velocity

Dodgers reach more clarity on rotation after veteran's rough outing
MLB.com @kengurnick

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Whatever slim chance Scott Kazmir had of making the Dodgers' starting rotation turned into none in the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Rangers Sunday, when he struggled in his first start in three weeks.

Kazmir's disappointing spring culminated with a messy three-inning outing in which he walked five, hit two batters, threw one wild pitch and had fastball velocity consistently around 84 mph and topping at 87 mph. While winning 10 games last season, Kazmir's fastball averaged 91-92 mph.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Whatever slim chance Scott Kazmir had of making the Dodgers' starting rotation turned into none in the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Rangers Sunday, when he struggled in his first start in three weeks.

Kazmir's disappointing spring culminated with a messy three-inning outing in which he walked five, hit two batters, threw one wild pitch and had fastball velocity consistently around 84 mph and topping at 87 mph. While winning 10 games last season, Kazmir's fastball averaged 91-92 mph.

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"Right now," said manager Dave Roberts, "Scott's not there."

Where he is, isn't clear, other than he won't be in the rotation. Kazmir and Roberts said they "will talk" on Monday to come up with a plan, which probably will be a disabled list stint allowing him to increase strength and flexibility in his hip, continued throwing to build arm strength and mechanical tweaks to improve his velocity and confidence.

"Where he's at right now, it just doesn't make sense competitively for him to be out there on a Major League field," said Roberts. "You feel for a guy like that. He doesn't want to put the club behind the eight ball. Last year he was 90-94 [mph], at times he was really good. Now he's looking at 83-86, that's a lot. For anyone's velocity to be down that much this late in a Major League camp is telling.

"Scott will say himself he's not right. To just think he's going to make his next start, at some point we've got to get the lower half right and make sure the ball's coming out before we get him back on the field. Where we're at, we've got to have guys that have a legitimate chance to get guys out consistently."

Kazmir said he was "battling myself" but downplayed the severity of his struggles after this start, his first in nearly three weeks.

"Not being able to locate the fastball, I was relying on cutter to get me out of jams," he said. "It's just a matter of synching everything up and using my legs. There are so many checkpoints, but it feels like it's slowly getting there. Everything happening in the past few weeks, I've made huge strides. I know it's there. It's just getting that muscle memory back."

Kazmir said it's unfair to compare this episode to the career challenge he faced in 2011 with the Angels, when he was released and sank to independent baseball before resurrecting his career in Oakland and receiving a three-year, $48 million contract from the Dodgers after the 2015 season.

"That was a whole other deal," Kazmir said of his Angels ordeal. "I don't even want to start with that. That had a lot to do with flexibility, arm strength, I kind of lost myself with some minor injuries, had to learn the simple fundamentals."

Kazmir's outing, and the comments afterward, only supported the previous belief that he hadn't done enough this spring to fit in a rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. With Julio Urias almost assuredly throttled down in April via extended spring training, Brandon McCarthy appears to be the fourth starter with the fifth spot going to Hyun-Jin Ryu or Alex Wood.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Scott Kazmir