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.

Former major league pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez dies in traffic accident

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Former Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez died in a traffic accident in Havana on Thursday, per reports from the El Nuevo Herald and CiberCuba. No other deaths or injuries have been reported in connection to the accident. Gonzalez was 34 years old.

The Cuban righty defected from his home country in 2013 and signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Phillies. A bout of right shoulder tendinitis compromised his bid for a major league role, but he finally broke through to the big leagues at the tail end of the 2014 season and turned in a 6.75 ERA, 5.1 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 in just six outings. Another case of shoulder inflammation derailed any progress he might have made in 2015, however, and he recorded just five innings in Triple-A Lehigh Valley before the team officially released him prior to the 2016 season.

The Phillies released a statement following news of Gonzalez’s death: