Reporting from Detroit — It would have been one thing if Scott Kazmir had been sidelined in the midst of a good season or one in which his team was in first place.
Making the Angels pitcher's nearly month-long layoff all the more agonizing, however, is that it has come in the wake of a four-start stretch in which he went 0-4 with a 13.73 earned-run average. In his last start before going on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, the left-hander gave up a franchise-worst 13 runs against Oakland.
So Kazmir said he was "very eager" to pitch Saturday against Detroit at Comerica Park, his return to the rotation finally confirmed by Manager Mike Scioscia on Friday night after the Angels' 4-2 victory over the Tigers.
"I want to get out there and redeem myself, feel comfortable and get a little bit of confidence," said Kazmir, who was so rattled after his last start that he was almost inaudible when speaking to reporters. "You kind of want to almost accelerate the comeback just to get out there and start throwing again."
The Angels have lost 13 of 21 games since Kazmir (7-9) last pitched on July 10 and have fallen into third place in the American League West. If they have any hope of getting back into postseason contention, they will need Kazmir to more closely resemble the pitcher who was a two-time All-Star than the one who has compiled a 6.92 ERA this season.
"When you look at Scott and his potential, and you look at the way he's performing," Scioscia said, "that gap needs to be bridged a little bit. Hopefully we'll see that."
Kazmir typically gets stronger the deeper he pitches into a season. According to STATS LLC, since 2006 Kazmir has the biggest improvement in ERA from the first half of the season (4.74) to the second half (3.14) among pitchers who have worked at least 600 innings.
Start them up
Seeking to put more runners on base for Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, Scioscia let Bobby Abreu hit in the leadoff spot for the first time since June 2, 2007, when the outfielder played for the New York Yankees.
Aybar, who has started 94 games this season atop the Angels' batting order, batted second and Callaspo batted third.
"Our problem is, as those guys have come around [the batting order], there hasn't been a lot of action in front of them," Scioscia said. "Bobby is a high on-base guy that can create something like that, so I think that's going to be a positive."
Though his .348 on-base percentage entering the game trailed only Torii Hunter's .373 and Reggie Willits' .361 among the Angels, Abreu didn't generate many opportunities Friday, going 0 for 3 with a walk. He was thrown out attempting to steal second base in the seventh inning.
But Abreu said before the game he was happy to make the switch.
"Whatever I have to do to help the team find a way to win games to get back on track, I'm going to do," he said.
The Angels signed center fielder James Sneed, a 14th-round draft pick out of the Virgin Islands.