Posted on March 7, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Dodgers received some good news on the injury front Tuesday when an MRI on starter Scott Kazmir’s hip came back negative. Kazmir was forced to leave Monday’s spring training game one pitch into his second inning of work because of tightness in his hip and down his side. The negative MRI is obviously a positive side for both Kazmir and the Dodgers. However, questions still linger about the lefty’s health and his ability to be a regular contributor to the Los Angeles rotation in 2017.
Kazmir says he has felt soreness in his hip going back to last season, possibly contributing to a neck injury that sent him to the DL towards the end of August and ultimately prevented him from pitching in the postseason. He’s been working this spring on exercises designed to improve his flexibility. But having to leave Monday’s game early and go for an MRI indicates that the exercises have not yet had the desired effect.
“The frustration’s through the roof right now,” Kazmir said after exiting Monday’s spring game. “It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a while. The treatment I get, the exercises I do, everything like that, and to be in the spot I’m in right now, is definitely a head-scratcher. I’ve come back from worse. I’m staying positive. I know what it takes to pitch to my full potential, and I’ll keep working to do that.”
The pain in his hip has lead to a disruption in Kazmir’s mechanics, an issue he’s been trying to rectify all spring. In his first outing of the spring, Kazmir cruised through the 1st inning, only to run into trouble in the 2nd inning. On Monday, Kazmir again pitched a scoreless frame in the 1st inning, only to be forced out in the 2nd inning because of his hip.
The pain and lack of flexibility in his hip has caused Kazmir’s velocity to drop nearly 10 mph. He says he can still pitch, but admits it’s far from an ideal situation.
“Even throughout the beginning of last year, I felt a little bit of that in some starts, and then it would all of a sudden loosen up, and the next thing I know, I’m throwing 95, 96,” Kazmir explains. “That’s the most frustrating part, because I know it’s in there. Not being able to get that full mobility, full range of motion, it’s almost like I’m skipping a step in my delivery. It’s just a tough way to pitch.”
It’s unclear if Kazmir will be forced to skip his next start while he continues to get his hip in shape, but the Dodgers may be wise to scale back his throwing until his flexibility improves. If healthy, he’s an obvious favorite to earn one of the spots in the back end of the Los Angeles bullpen behind Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda. However, the Dodgers have a slew of other starters who are capable of filling in if Kazmir is unavailable.
At this point, it’s hard to know what to make of Kazmir’s situation, but something definitely isn’t right with him. If he’s at full strength, he’s definitely capable of being an asset on the Dodgers pitching staff. However, he doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to full strength right now, and until there’s proof to the contrary, there will be questions about what he’ll be able to contribute to the Dodgers in 2017.