After missing the entire 2017 season due to injuries, former All-Star pitcher Scott Kazmir felt a bit like a nervous rookie Sunday in his first appearance for the Braves. It showed.
Kazmir walked the first two batters in a start against the Nationals and hit the fourth. He managed to work out of the first inning unscathed by inducing a double-play comebacker to the mound from Bryce Harper and getting Brian Goodwin in a caught-stealing rundown.
That was the only inning Kazmir pitched in a 9-3 loss at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, on a day when other Braves also pitchers had control problems and the pitching staff totaled seven walks to only two strikeouts.
Kazmir, 34, conceded he had more than the usual juices flowing for a veteran in a spring training game.
“Oh yeah, big time,” he said. “The nerves were going for sure; kind of felt like my debut out there. Had to control some emotions a little bit. Was able to get it all in – lot of pitches in one inning and some PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice) work, pick-off work. ... Able to get through it, but I’m just excited that I’m able to get out there and see some big-league hitters. It’s been a while.”
He spent last season on the disabled list with the Dodgers due to hip, back and arm injuries, the hip condition starting a series of what Kazmir says were compensatory-type ailments as he favored one area or another. He’s excited to be healthy now and hoping to make a strong bid for one of the two openings in the starting rotation, even though young Braves are considered the leading candidates.
“Nerves got to me a little bit, but I kind of expected it for not being in there for so long,” he said. “But all in all, I’ll take it as another stepping stone. Everything felt good. It was tough to think out there because everything was moving pretty quick for me, as I would expect it in my first time out in a while. But all in all, made some good pitches.
“Looking back on the outing, I barely threw my change-up just because I was so amped up, felt like I wanted to strike everybody out on the first pitch of the at-bat. It was just one of those things where you get out there the first time, kind of get those nerves and just get through all that stuff and keep moving forward.”
Kazmir, Lucas Sims and Lucas Jackson all issued two walks apiece – Sims in two innings, Jackson in just one-third of an inning. Sims, Jackson and Max Fried allowed three hits apiece.
Meanwhile, Nationals pitchers allowed just five hits and racked up 13 strikeouts with three walks. They did it while facing a Braves travel roster filled with young players, journeymen and prospects in the third consecutive road game for manager Brian Snitker’s Braves (0-3).
“It’s guys scattering it a little bit -- it’s the first time, they’re young and probably have emotions and a little adrenaline rush,” Snitker said of the rash of walks all weekend by Braves pitchers. “You know, I don’t care, some of them have some time in the big leagues but it’s still their first spring training game and they all want to go out and impress for the whole spring in one outing. We just kind of scattered the ball around a little bit.”
He did have praise for the work of three relievers Sunday, lefty bullpen candidates Phi Pfeifer, Adam McCreery and Jesse Biddle.
Snitker plans to play veteran positions players such as Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis for the first time Monday in the Braves’ Grapefruit League home opener against the Nationals at Champion Stadium.
“I kind of feel like now we can start things more normal starting (Monday),” Snitker said. “Because this isn’t easy this early in camp to have three road games, overnight, long (bus rides). You’re talking about disrupting your scheduled a little bit, so I think that we can get back to work tomorrow and go about things a little bit more normal going forward.”