A pair of 22-year-old pitchers, one fulfilling his potential and one trying to make the most of an opportunity, meet in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday at Tropicana Field where Scott Kazmir and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays host Brandon McCarthy and the Chicago White Sox.
Kazmir (5-2, 2.94 ERA) has won his last three starts for the Devil Rays (15-23), limiting opponents to three runs and 17 hits while striking out 23 in 19 2-3 innings. The left-hander scattered three hits and one walk over seven innings Wednesday, fanning nine in a 1-0 win over the Seattle Mariners.
The victory made Kazmir—at 22 years, three months—the youngest pitcher to reach five victories by May 10 since Atlanta’s John Smoltz accomplished the feat in 1989 at 22 years, 359 days of age.
“Potentially—and very soon—he’s going to be one of the best left-handers in the game,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Kazmir is making just his third start at home, where he is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 2006. The southpaw has never faced the White Sox and is 5-5 in 14 lifetime starts at Tropicana Field, striking out 114 in 105 2-3 innings.
He will need to be at his best as the Devil Rays are struggling offensively. They have been held to three runs or less in eight of their last nine games, including an 8-3 loss Sunday to the Toronto Blue Jays in which they managed five hits.
“Every year this happens,” Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford said. “It’s one of those things where we’re just going through one of those periods. You’re not going to hit the whole year. It’s just tough when you’ve got the whole team not hitting at the same time.”
McCarthy (2-1, 5.21) is getting a turn in the rotation with staff ace Jose Contreras on the 15-day disabled list. The right-hander will be making his first start after 12 relief appearances and prepped for this start with a season-high four innings Wednesday in Chicago’s 12-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
He threw 30 of his 54 pitches for strikes and allowed two runs on two hits, walking one and striking out three after replacing ineffective knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who got the first chance to fill Contreras’ spot.
“This kid is throwing the ball good,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of McCarthy. “(The) last couple outings he’s thrown the ball outstanding—one reason we’re giving him the shot to start.”
McCarthy made 10 starts in 2005 but struggled in his only start against the Devil Rays, giving up five runs and eight hits, including two homers, in three innings. He did not get a decision as Chicago rallied for a 10-8 victory.
The White Sox (25-12) are scoring 5.7 runs per game and salvaged a split of their four-game series at Minnesota with a 7-3 win Monday afternoon. Scott Podsednik went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, raising his average to .300 after starting the season .079 (3-for-38) in his first nine games.
“I don’t want to sit here and jinx it, but as far as what I can bring to the table as a player, I’m capable of doing it all right now,” said Podsednik, who also had his 11th stolen base. “With my approach and the way I’m feeling up there, I would like to continue this ride for as long as I can.”
Podsednik, who is 10-for-19 (.526) with nine runs scored during a current five-game hitting streak, is hitting just .184 against lefties this season.