Kazmir impresses Norris, Melvin in first 'pen session
PHOENIX -- In the early hours of the morning Sunday, A's manager Bob Melvin found his way to Scott Kazmir's locker, took a seat beside his new left-hander and had a little chat.
"I wanted to talk to him a little bit before his first bullpen," Melvin said. "I know he's pumped up about it. Usually the first bullpen isn't what gets you motivated, but being with a new team, I know he's excited about it."
Hours later, both Melvin and Kazmir were pleased with it, too, and so was Derek Norris, who caught the $22 million southpaw for the first time.
"Great first bullpen," Kazmir said. "Always have a little adrenaline going the first time, seeing the staff behind you, but I kept it simple and it went good. You wanna go out there from the get-go and show the organization that they made the right decision. You always get those nerves."
They didn't show.
"I didn't realize his ball had that kind of carry," Melvin said. "Similar to [Sean] Doolittle, he has a really good backspin on his balls. He looked real good."
"His fastball had a lot of life," added Norris. "It's still early, and of course everything's going to look faster than it probably is, but it's coming out good. Everything was popping the mitt. It was the first day, but the way he was dotting up with his fastball was really impressive, especially this early. So my first impression of him is very strong."
Norris didn't quite realize the extent of Kazmir's repertoire, which now includes a cutter he added in the second half last year. It takes the place of his traditional slider, after he lost grip on it, and has been very effective against right-handers, who hit .240 off Kazmir when he threw it in 2013, according to brooksbaseball.net.
"I stumbled on it and had success with it," he said. "It felt easy to throw, and so I just stuck with it. Toward the second half I used it quite a bit, and it would probably be my third-best pitch. I'm still getting used to throwing it consistently, but it's something I want to use for sure going into the season."
Learning the nuances of a new battery mate doesn't happen overnight, which is why Norris planned to continue getting to know the veteran Kazmir more on the golf course soon.
"It allows me to pick his brain here or there for four hours, and that's when guys kind of open up, when you're out of the element," Norris said. "You get to know someone's demeanor by the way they golf. You look at [Ryan] Cook, the way he throws is, 'Here I am, 98,' and that's the way he golfs. He'll hit the crap out of it. Guys like Tommy [Milone], who are finesse guys, they really think methodically when golfing. It works. It's amazing."