Scott Kazmir got the baseball equivalent of a summons to the principal's office Thursday, the second time this season the Angels left-hander has met with Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher behind closed doors.
Kazmir had a similar meeting on May 12, when he was 2-3 with a 6.82 earned-run average and struggling with mechanical issues.
Kazmir gave up five runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings of Wednesday night's 6-4 loss to the Rangers, dropping to 7-7 with a 5.67 ERA.
Thursday's meeting focused on Kazmir's long-lost slider, a pitch he has not thrown enough — or effectively enough — this season.
Kazmir, who has relied almost exclusively on his fastball and changeup, said his slider felt great in the bullpen Wednesday, but he threw "only about five of them" in the game.
This has been a common theme; the slider feels great in the bullpen, but not in the game.
"Some of the issues that have plagued Scott," Scioscia said, "have been a little redundant."
Vladimir Guerrero hammered a Kazmir changeup for a game-changing grand slam in the fourth inning.
"We need to mix it in more," Kazmir said of his slider. "I start to fall in love with my fastball and changeup, but I've got to give guys different looks. That's on me. I need to shake the catchers off more. I'm the one throwing the ball out there."
Even without his best slider, Kazmir won four straight starts from June 2-18, allowing six earned runs in 23 innings.
"He's gone against some good clubs, pitched seven or eight innings and won," Scioscia said. "I don't think his performances have been horrific.... But at some point you have to bring [the slider] into a game because it's such a good pitch for him."
That responsibility falls on Kazmir.
"The ultimate feel for a pitch is in the pitcher's hands," Scioscia said. "If he's confident in it, he's going to shake off the catcher and throw it."
Juan Rivera has experienced some blurry vision over the past two weeks and went to an optometrist Thursday to have his eyes checked. The left fielder did not play Wednesday night and was not in Thursday night's lineup.
"I started to notice it in the [June 18-20] series against the Chicago Cubs," said Rivera, who does not wear glasses or contacts. "The ball was a little blurry when I was hitting and when I was in the field. I see the ball when it comes out of the pitcher's hand, but it's hard to see the rotation. I see more when it gets closer to me."
Rivera, 32, is batting .239, well off his career average of .285. His power numbers — 10 home runs, 13 doubles, 34 runs batted in — are decent, but Rivera is not on pace to match the 25 homers and 88 RBIs he had in 2009.
Rivera, who expects results from his eye test Friday, has not misjudged or dropped any balls in the field, but could his vision problems be contributing to his sluggish year at the plate?
"I don't think that's the reason," Rivera said. "The last three weeks, I've felt good at the plate."
Rivera is a career .264 hitter with a .448 slugging percentage before the All-Star break and a .298 hitter with a .483 slugging percentage after it.
"If you look at him historically, he's a second-half player," Scioscia said. "Some of his numbers are not where you'd hope they would be, but he's starting to swing the bat better."
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