ANAHEIM -- At age 21, Scott Kazmir threw 186 innings for Tampa Bay in 2004 -- 52 more than he'd ever thrown in a season. He came back two years later with 206 2/3 innings, striking out an American League-high 239 hitters. He was the youngest American League strikeout king since the Angels' Frank Tanana, who was 22 in 1979.
That's a lot of wear and tear on a young arm, especially when one of his most important deliveries is the slider, a pitch known to create strain on the shoulder and elbow.
Kazmir is struggling to find his slider and get deep into games, averaging 5.4 innings per start for the Angels this season. He was frustrated after lasting only 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday night against Texas after facing the minimum nine hitters through three innings. A grand slam by scalding Vladimir Guerrero was the big blow that led to Kazmir's quick exit.
Meeting with manager Mike Scioscia on Thursday, Kazmir reiterated his need to bring his slider into games with more consistency to complement his fastball and changeup, the pitches he relied on almost exclusively against the Rangers.
"Some of the issues that have plagued Scott, it's been a little redundant," said Scioscia, who has had pitching coach Mike Butcher working overtime with Kazmir. "What Mike is working out with Scott are some fundamental adjustments. Some of his numbers are not good, but he's gone against some good clubs and pitched into the seventh and eighth innings in games we've won. I don't think his games have been horrific.
"It's not just his slider. That's part of it. He threw some decent ones [Wednesday night]. There's no doubt what his slider can be. Command of his slider is important to him. He's not bringing it in enough -- only a handful. The ultimate feel for a pitch is in the pitcher's hands. If Scott's not throwing it, it's because he's not comfortable with it. It's a difference-maker, and hopefully we're going to see it. But without a functional slider, Scott has shut down some pretty good teams."