Kazmir makes return against Marlins

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Scott Kazmir, sidelined for over a month due to a strained right quad,
will make his return to the Rays rotation on Saturday against the
Marlins. But just how effective he will be is up for debate. The
25-year-old southpaw was awful in his first nine starts, compiling a
7.69 ERA and 35/29 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings. But the Rays were
encouraged enough after two rehab starts — where he allowed just one
run over 10 2/3 innings — to bring him back.

It doesn’t take many charts and graphs to tell you that something
has been off with Kazmir. Seeing his flyball rate increase to a
career-high 48.9% last season, at least he decided to incorporate his
slider again in 2009, but a noticeable drop in velocity (average of
80.4 MPH as opposed to 84.8 MPH in 2007) has made the pitch the
complete opposite of a weapon.

And it isn’t just his slider that has suffered. His fastball has
lost over 2 MPH from last season (from 91.8 to 89.7) and almost three
MPH from 2007 (92.4). It should come as no surprise that his strikeout
rate has decreased every year from 2007 (10.41 K/9) to it’s current
6.90. While control has always been an issue for Kazmir, it’s become an
even bigger one now that he can’t put batters away. He’s seen that
shoot up from 3.88 BB/9 in 2007 to 5.72 this season.

The Rays hope that Kazmir’s refined mechanics, namely an effort to shorten his stride, will net better results. We’ll see in just over an hour from now.

Hyun-Jin Ryu will open season in Dodgers’ rotation

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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu will open the regular season in the starting rotation, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports.

Ryu, 30, missed the entire 2015 season and made only one start last season due to shoulder and elbow injuries. The lefty has looked solid in three spring appearances, however, yielding a lone run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in nine innings.

With Scott Kazmir likely to begin the season on the disabled list, that leaves Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.