The mystery of what is ailing Scott Kazmir has confounded and frustrated the Angels all season. So even before Kazmir took the mound Saturday for his final home start of the season, Manager Mike Scioscia said the search for a cure will continue into the off-season.
"Scott understands the challenge in front of us," Scioscia said. "He's a guy really fighting to get a foothold as a major league starting pitcher again. And continue his career."
The only thing that continued Saturday was Kazmir's struggles, with the left-hander lasting only one batter into the fourth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Things have gotten so bad, in fact, on this night he couldn't even fool Manny Ramirez, whose third-inning run-scoring double was both his second extra-base hit and second run batted in since the Dodgers shipped him to Chicago last month. The result was not only Kazmir's shortest outing of the season, but his 10th loss in 12 decisions, part of a 14-start span in which he has posted a 7.00 earned-run average and his record has dropped to 9-15.
And if Kazmir can't get that turned around this winter, Scioscia said, there's a good chance he won't be in the rotation next spring.
"His ability to pitch and to shut down good offenses is still there. It hasn't been there on a consistent basis and that's Scott's challenge," Scioscia said. "You don't need numbers to evaluate his performance."
Part of the solution, the Angels hope, will come in Arizona, where Kazmir will work this off-season with pitching coach Mike Butcher while participating in an aggressive physical therapy program and a new strength and conditioning routine.
"I'm all ready to start [now]," a flustered Kazmir said after his latest setback. "It's been a journey. It's been a rough one. But I know what I'm capable of doing. I've just got to keep at it."
A two-time All-Star with Tampa Bay who won in double figures over five seasons in a row, Kazmir, 26, battled through an injury-marred 2009 season in which he posted a career-high 4.89 ERA. He has battled all types of issues this season, including an injury-induced wariness about throwing his sharp slider, once a devastating pitch.
"It's just me fighting myself out there," Kazmir said. "That's where you have inconsistency. There's a couple of things that we look at in the video that we can see, but it's just hard to clean up. All these bad habits, I'm just trying to get out of them.
"When you feel like you're fighting yourself every single time you throw a baseball, it's hard to stay focused on exactly the pitch you're looking to throw."
Weaver, Hunter honored
In pregame ceremonies, Jered Weaver was presented with the Nick Adenhart Award as the Angels' top pitcher for the second year in a row. The award is named after the Angels pitcher, and close Weaver friend, who was killed in a car crash last season.
Torii Hunter was presented with the Owners Trophy as the team's player of the year. Both awards are voted on by the Angels players.
Injured infielders Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis worked out, and Scioscia said it's possible all three could play again before the season ends.
Izturis has made three trips to the disabled list this season, the most recent because of an inflamed shoulder. He hasn't played since Aug. 19.
Aybar was recently declared done for the season, but Scioscia backtracked on that after doctors decided Aybar wouldn't need surgery for a sports hernia.
"As he goes through his baseball routine, gets into his baseball activities, we're going to be able to read exactly where he is," Scioscia said.
Callaspo suffered a bruise on his left foot when he was hit by a pitch Monday. Scioscia said the third baseman is still a few days away from being able to play.