Kazmir realizes dream as USA Olympian

July 17th, 2021

Players face a lot of adversity on the climb to the Major Leagues, and even more trying to stay at that level.

That’s how former Giants pitcher Scott Kazmir described his 13-season career that has spanned 17 years. Kazmir made a comeback with the Giants earlier this season, more than four years after he last toed the rubber in a Major League stadium.

He was designated for assignment two weeks later, on June 5, but it opened the door for the opportunity to represent the USA at the Tokyo Olympics.

“Throughout probably the beginning of the season, I just kind of kept making them aware that I'm very interested in the opportunity,” Kazmir said. “I ended up getting called up [to the Giants] right before the qualifiers, so I honestly thought that it was out of the question. Then, I got a phone call on July 2 that said I'm on the team and I was very excited.”

When the Olympics were scheduled to commence in the summer of 2020, Kazmir was enjoying his retirement with his family in California. But when he started playing catch with Mariners pitcher Kendall Graveman, Kazmir realized he still had gas in the tank.

“I thought about it last year and when [the Olympics] got postponed, I still kept that in the back of my head, knowing that I would love the opportunity. And I just kept at it,” Kazmir said. “I needed to get a lot of reps to get back in the swing of things in pro ball, and I feel like that set me up pretty well for this opportunity that I have now.”

The southpaw appeared in three games for the Giants this season, striking out seven in seven innings. He rediscovered his control after being outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on June 11, posting a 3.70 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 24 1/3 innings, which may help Team USA win gold in Tokyo.

"To be able to represent my country in the Olympics, it's something that you dream about as a kid,” Kazmir said. “To be able to represent my country, to go to Japan and compete against great talent and do it with my friends ... it's going to be a special moment.”

Jackson’s Giants debut

The last time Jay Jackson stepped foot on a Major League mound was in the final weeks of the 2019 season. In his last appearance that season, on Sept. 27, the right-hander, then with the Brewers, allowed one earned run in two-thirds of an inning against the Rockies.

Jackson spent time in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines last year before signing a Minor League contract with the Reds in August. Now with the Giants, Jackson returned to the big leagues on Friday for the series opener in St. Louis.

If Jackson had any nerves, it wasn’t noticeable as he dominated in the seventh and eighth innings, earning the win.

“It wasn't the soft landing we were hoping for with Jackson,” manager Gabe Kapler said. ”[We] probably put him in the most difficult possible situation, a bases-loaded jam, and then also having to go back out and complete an additional inning. So, not ideal.”

Jackson entered the game in seventh with the bases loaded and two outs. He relied on six consecutive sliders against Harrison Bader to work a full count before he struck him out looking at a 93.3 mph fastball.

It was the same type of dominance he displayed with Triple-A Sacramento, where he pitched 11 innings in eight games without allowing an earned run, striking out 18 and walking just one batter.

“In his career, he's had very brief stints at the Major League level, but he's been effective,” Kapler said. “Obviously we were interested in him as a Minor League free agent because of the work that he's done, both at the Major League level and also in Asia.”