Angels pitcher Scott Kazmir is off to a promising start in spring training… (Mark Duncan / Associated…)
Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Scott Kazmir admits there was a wide gap between his expectations and his performance last season.
The two-time All-Star, who averaged nearly 12 wins with a 3.52 earned-run average in his last four full seasons with Tampa Bay, posted career highs for losses (15) and ERA (5.94) in his first full year with the Angels. On Friday, though, he took another step on what he hopes will be the road back to form, holding the Chicago White Sox to two hits and no runs over three innings in the Angels' 3-1 Cactus League win.
"One step at a time," said Kazmir, who showed a good slider and an effective changeup, throwing 24 of his 41 pitches for strikes.
The left-hander, who battled everything from a lack of confidence to a lack of command last season, was not ready to pronounce his struggles over. But he said he is headed in the right direction.
"It's getting there," he said. "Just picking up a ball and playing catch, everything feels so much better. [But] I'm not going to say I'm there, because I'm definitely not."
An effective Kazmir would give the Angels one of the top rotations in the American League. And after Kazmir's two spring starts, Manager Mike Scioscia likes what he has seen.
"He's feeling good physically. He feels much better with his delivery. And I think you're seeing better results," he said. "We need him to feel good about where he is and start to execute pitches because he has talent."
Managing just fine
Former Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, looking happier and more relaxed than he has in many a spring, was in the Angels clubhouse Friday to talk with Scioscia in his new job as Major League Baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations.
It was Torre's second stop on a tour of spring training facilities. He plans to meet with managers for 15 to 20 minutes to discuss a range of issues.
"I just want to really touch base with them," Torre said. "Just want to write some notes down of any curiosities, concerns, whatever. It's really an open discussion."
The fact-finding trip began in the Oakland camp, hours after Torre was released from jury duty in Los Angeles. He was scheduled to fly to Florida on Saturday before returning to Arizona to continue meeting with managers.
"One of my priorities is going to be umpires," Torre said. "I just feel that we've given the umpires too many dirty things to do. It gets to the point where if they miss a call now, all of sudden that's on top of telling them to hurry up and this, that and the other thing.
"The last thing you want to do is have the umpires feel like they're sort of on the outside looking in and it's us against them. Because they're a part of this. You can't play without them."