Kazmir to debut Wednesday

Updated: August 31, 2009, 2:26 PM ET
Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A few hours after Scott Kazmir reported to his first full day of work on the West Coast, his brand-new Angels cap already was darkened by sweat.

The left-hander couldn't wait to get started on what he hopes is another playoff run in his eventful young career.

Los Angeles welcomed Kazmir into its clubhouse Sunday morning, two days after acquiring the two-time All-Star from Tampa Bay. He will make his Angels debut Wednesday in Seattle against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.

"You can't pick a better place to go," Kazmir said. "I've known for a couple of years what the Angels organization is about, and that's winning. I got a taste of it last year, and with a team like this, it seems like you could do it year in and year out."

Kazmir was particularly grateful to be back under the tutelage of Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, giving him credit for jump-starting his career during Butcher's sole season as Tampa Bay's pitching coach in 2006. Kazmir went 10-8 with a career-low 3.24 ERA that season.

After a morning bullpen session, Kazmir met with catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis to work on their connections.

"The bulk of it happens out there with just application and practice," manager Mike Scioscia said. "All the minute technical rapport, that's what you have to get."

Kazmir acknowledges the trade was "a huge surprise," given his lucrative three-year contract extension through 2011 signed in May 2008. He hasn't thought about where to live in Orange County yet, but said he hopes to stay with the Angels for the length of his contract, which includes a $13.5 million club option for 2012.

Not many 25-year-old pitchers can match the former Texas high school quarterback's list of accomplishments.

Kazmir has been selected for two All-Star Games, earning a victory in last year's contest at Yankee Stadium. He previously made the All-Star team as a 22-year-old in 2006, and he led the AL with 239 strikeouts in 2007.

He is Tampa Bay's career leader in victories, innings pitched and strikeouts, among other categories. He also has the experience of last fall's postseason, making two of his five starts in the World Series against Philadelphia.

He has won at least 10 games in each of his first four major league seasons. At 8-7 with a 5.92 ERA with the Rays this year, he's in position to reach double digits again -- and the Angels' prolific offense should give him even better opportunities.

After an unimpressive start to the season, Kazmir has won four of his last six starts in a change he credits to simplifying his approach and pitching with more confidence.

"It feels like I'm a lot more comfortable out there," he said. "I'm simplifying things. Before, I was getting behind in the count and trying to battle my way back, and now I'm attacking the strike zone. I learned a lot over the last year."

Kazmir will become Los Angeles' 14th starting pitcher of the season, the most in the majors. His arrival pushed rookie Trevor Bell back to the bullpen, where Scioscia hopes he can serve as the long reliever.

With his usual No. 19 belonging to first baseman Kendry Morales, Kazmir will wear No. 22 for Los Angeles.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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