January 16, 2009
What am I missing here?
Last year, after an early season elbow injury delayed the start of his season, Scott Kazmir pitched into the seventh inning in only five of his 27 regular season starts. None of those starts came after June 6.
In July, he showed up to the All-Star Game in New York City and made it known that only an emergency (like a 15-inning game) would get him out of the bullpen (to actually earn him the win).
In the fall, his Rays reached the World Series and while the 25 2/3 added innings only brought his season total to 178 innings pitched, he ceded the title of Tampa Bay's staff ace to James Shields. Not apocalypse-type stuff, but his struggles in working past the sixth inning were enough cause for continued concern.
Anyway, now Scott Kazmir says he'll pitch for Team America when the World Baseball Classic gets underway in March, a patriotic decision that already has some Rays bloggers crying into their HTML.
For a United States team that was low on left-handers — righties John Lackey, Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy are the squad's other marquee names — the addition of Kazmir and fellow Rays southpaw J.P. Howell will be a welcome addition. Kazmir says he's put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason for added strength and that the pitch counts that will be imposed by U.S. manager Davey Johnson will keep every pitcher protected from overuse. Perhaps Johnson will commit Kazmir to a role coming out of the bullpen?
Pitchers' workloads are closely monitored under WBC rules, but the high-profile nature of the tournament leads players to compete at a much higher level than if they were in spring training. "The intensity will be a lot higher, but there's not going to be that many pitches, so I think we'll be fine,'' Kazmir said. "So that's all good.''
If Kaz isn't worried, then I suppose we shouldn't be, either. Still, I can't get over my belief that he'd be better served getting his affairs in order for a long and healthy 2009, rather than playing in a tournament that will increase his workload.
What do you think? Should fans be worried when one of their pitchers commits to the WBC?