Kazmir embraces the big stage

Kazmir embraces the big stage

ANAHEIM -- At 25 and still unlocking many of the keys to his profession, Scott Kazmir already has shown an ability to deliver in the big moment on the largest of stages.

The Angels' new southpaw starter, wearing No. 22 in red for the first time on Sunday while doing a bullpen session in preparation for a Wednesday debut in Seattle, has made two hitless, scoreless All-Star Game appearances (2006, 2008) representing the Rays.

He was the winning pitcher in '08 in the final Midsummer Classic played at old Yankee Stadium.

Kazmir also delivered quality work in his first taste of postseason play, going 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA and 23 strikeouts in five starts that covered 25 2/3 innings for the Rays in their stunning drive to the World Series last October.

A high school quarterback with excellent speed in Houston for his first two years before focusing on baseball, Kazmir, who was acquired from Tampa Bay in exchange for three young talents, believes his athletic background gives him a competitive edge when the spotlight shines brightest.

"You thrive in situations like the big stage," Kazmir said. "If you're a competitor, you want to have the ball at that certain time that [matters] most. That's what competitors want to do.

"I look forward to being on that big stage, and I'm getting excited for it."

He is aware of the Angels' recent history, featuring four American League West titles in five seasons, the last two ending in AL Division Series losses to the Red Sox.

One of the peripheral assets Kazmir brings is a proven ability to perform at a high level at Fenway Park, having already beaten the Red Sox twice there this season. That's one more victory than the Angels have at the ancient yard the past two Octobers.

"Me being on that big stage, you get a lot of adrenaline and get comfortable," Kazmir said. "You get that vibe there at Fenway Park; the atmosphere is there. You really get pumped up for that game."

The Angels are loaded with former quarterbacks now that Kazmir joins the fraternity. Sunday's batterymates -- catcher Jeff Mathis and starter John Lackey -- excelled as high school QBs, and Torii Hunter could fling a football more than 50 yards as a football star in his youth in Arkansas.

Kazmir is keenly aware of the other athletes lining an impressive clubhouse. The Angels' offense, despite a recent lull, still lead the Major Leagues in team average (.289), runs (727), hits (1,289) and average with runners in scoring position (.303).

Kazmir will seek the counsel of some of these athletes -- cerebral Bobby Abreu, Chone Figgins and Hunter will be especially valuable sources -- in order to gain more awareness of a hitter's perspective of his high-octane stuff.

"I'm sure I will talk to some of the hitters and see how they approach me, what their thought process was when they stepped up to the plate," Kazmir said. "It comes from a scouting report of what their approach was. It's good information to have."

Abreu, the thinking man's hitter, can offer more than a scouting report. He can deliver a thesis if he's in an expansive mood.

Kazmir said his bullpen session with catcher Mike Napoli went well, and he's looking forward to showing his new team what he can do in Seattle.

"I've known for a couple years already what the Angel organization is about," Kazmir said. "That's winning. It's exciting that's on everyone's mind, to win a World Series.

"I got a taste of it last year. You want to go all the way. The Angels are a team that can do it year in and year out. It says a lot about the organization."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.