Scott Kazmir: Progressing, but ‘I’m not there yet’

Kazmir gave up two hits, struck out one and walked one against the Yankees on Friday.

The veteran lefty survived the middle of the order despite walking Aaron Judge and allowed a double to Giancarlo Stanton. He got Gary Sanchez to pop out and struck out Greg Bird for a scoreless first

“It definitely puts you in midseason form, the lineup that they threw out there today,” Kazmir said. “But I’m still continuing to progress. Feel good out there. But still a lot of work to do.”

Kazmir credited the Yankees’ deep lineup, saying while the focus is always on Judge and Stanton, he didn’t want to single out those two sluggers.

“I threw a good 1-0 pitch to Judge, and it was pretty much an automatic take, so it just makes me look back to where I need to be a little bit more aggressive out there and protect the strike zone, get ahead in the count instead of trying to get cute out there the first couple pitches,” Kazmir said.

Brett Gardner led off the second with a single. Kazmir got Miguel Andujar to line out to center and induced two ground outs on Estevan Florial and Tyler Wade to complete his afternoon.

“I wish I was able to attack the zone a little bit better,” he said. “Fell behind a lot of guys, but was able to make some good pitches to get some outs. At the same time, still a lot of work to do.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker liked what he saw and believes Kazmir is on the right track.

“The comeback, he’s making some good progress from where he started,” Snitker said. “It’s just kind of one of those things that’s going to be a process. And the second step was pretty good. I’m just glad to see him go out there and get the two innings.”

Kazmir missed last season with hip, back and arm injuries. He was included in the massive salary-swapping trade between the Braves and Dodgers.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who was with Kazmir the past two seasons in Los Angeles, didn’t know what to expect coming into the spring. The 34-year-old is a true wild card.

“I wouldn’t say I’m there yet,” Kazmir said. “I feel like I’m getting better and better, and that’s kind of the progression I’d like to have. Steadily getting better.”

Reports from last season indicated Kazmir’s velocity sat in the low-80s while he attempted a comeback. His velocity sat in the mid-80s on Friday, topping at 89 mph.

“It feels like I’m not necessarily working on velocity,” he said. “It feels like I’m just getting my delivery down, getting consistent. I think that’s the main thing for me. And I feel like the velocity’s going to be there. I feel like I’m almost there. Just got to keep progressing.”

Kazmir is considered a long shot to secure a rotation job given the abundance of young arms in the system. He could find a spot in the bullpen, though Kazmir’s pitched out of the bullpen just once as a rookie in 2004.

“I’m not really worried about where I fit in,” he said. “I’m just trying to get in there and help this team out. I feel like you do what you’re capable of doing and everything will fall into place. So I love the guys that are here. I’ve had the chance to talk to some of the young guys and veterans that are here, getting to know everyone and everyone getting comfortable with each other. So far it’s a great atmosphere.”

Scott Kazmir discusses his two innings against the Yankees, along with impressions of star prospect Ronald Acuña. (Gabe Burns / AJC)
X