Three full seasons have elapsed since Scott Kazmir pitched in a Major League game, but the veteran left-hander is set to launch another comeback attempt at 36 years of age. Kazmir recently tweeted a video of himself throwing in a bullpen session, and the former Rays, Indians, Angels, A’s and Dodgers southpaw confirmed to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he hopes to return to the big leagues in 2020.
Kazmir, who’s open to a minor league contract and a chance to prove himself in Spring Training (as he’d need to be after such a lengthy absence), tells Topkin he’s still in the process of rebuilding his arm strength and fastball velocity. He’s worked out with Driveline this winter and recently topped out at 90.9 mph in a bullpen session. That’s already a far sight higher than the 86 mph at which his heater sat when he first began throwing with an eye toward a big league return. Kazmir’s fastball sat at 91.4 mph in his final season with the Dodgers in 2016, so he’s not quite yet even topping out at his previous fastball average. However, he also has nearly two months before the season would begin.
This, of course, wouldn’t be the first comeback attempt for Kazmir. The former Rays ace saw a sharp decline in 2009-10, pitched just 1 2/3 innings in 2011 and was out of affiliated baseball entirely in 2012 before embarking on a similar journey. That career renaissance proved quite fruitful, as Kazmir parlayed a minor league deal with the Indians into a quality 2013 campaign in which he tossed 158 innings of 4.04 ERA ball with better than a strikeout per inning.
That showing landed him a two-year, $22MM deal with the A’s the following winter, and Kazmir made good on that deal as well, throwing a combined 373 1/3 frames of 3.33 ERA ball with the Athletics and (following a 2015 trade) the Astros. He headed into the 2015-16 offseason as a highly sought-after commodity and landed a three-year, $48MM pact with the Dodgers that proved regrettable for the club when neck and hip injuries wiped out years two and three of that pact.
It’s been a long time since Kazmir was at the top of his game, but he’s nevertheless a three-time All-Star with six career seasons featuring a sub-4.00 ERA and at least 140 innings of work. In total, Kazmir has a 4.01 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9 and a 40.2 percent ground-ball rate in 1689 2/3 innings at the MLB level. Given that the free-agent class has been largely picked over at this point in the winter, a returning Kazmir adds a source of genuine intrigue to the dwindling remnants of this year’s class of open-market starters.