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SAN FRANCISCO – Scott Kazmir made just four exhibition starts in his first spring with the Oakland A’s. He’s happy there won’t be a fifth.
The lefty was dealing in Thursday’s outing at AT&T Park, and the only shame of it from Oakland’s perspective was that it came in a game that doesn’t count.
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The wraps officially come off Kazmir on Tuesday night, when he makes his first regular season start for the A’s against the Cleveland Indians.
“I’m ready,” he summarized after a 4-0 victory over the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series opener. It hardly came across as cockiness, just self-assuredness from a veteran who knows when he’s dialed in for the season. In four exhibition starts, Kazmir posted a 1.62 ERA. He allowed just three earned runs and nine hits over 16 2/3 innings.
“Yeah,” you might conclude, “but it’s only spring training.”
That’s true. But Kazmir’s early sharpness shouldn’t be downplayed. The A’s took a leap of faith in giving him a two-year $22 million contract on the strength of one comeback season in 2013. Before that, the former phenom was scrapping in independent league ball while trying to re-discover his mechanics.
He was a pivotal man for the A’s when he arrived in Phoenix back in February. With the season-ending injury to Jarrod Parker and the elbow injury to A.J. Griffin, Kazmir becomes an even more essential piece of the starting rotation.
Can he be the stabilizing presence the A’s need him to be?
His performance in exhibitions – Thursday in particular – would suggest he can. After focusing on his fastball command in his early outings, Kazmir mixed in his off-speed stuff more prominently against the Giants and was pleased with the results.
“That’s what you want to see,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I know it’s spring training, but in that last outing you wanna do well to take that confidence into the season.”
Also important: After pitching in the warm, dry climate of Arizona, Kazmir got the opportunity to throw on a chilly night at AT&T Park, a good introduction to the conditions he’ll experience while making half his starts inside the Coliseum.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment from Arizona to here,” Kazmir said. “Just getting loose between every inning, staying warm. It was good, I’d guess you’d say, practice in getting ready for the Coliseum.”
And getting him ready for Tuesday’s start against Cleveland, the team with which he revived his career in 2013. Kazmir’s adrenaline would be pumping anyway for his official A’s debut, but facing his former teammates will add to the drama.
“I don’t even wanna think about that,” Kazmir said with a smile. “I don’t even think I’m gonna be able to look at ‘em in the face when they get up to bat.”
But he’s ready to pitch in games that count. And given how he looked Thursday, that’s a good thing for the A’s.