Scott Kazmir is “in denial about his continuing struggles”

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Scott Kazmir has a 7.79 ERA this spring after pitching horribly last season, yet after every poor outing he talks about stuff like “throwing the ball well” and feeling “so much better.”

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes that Kazmir “is either one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball, as he seems to believe, or in denial about his continuing struggles.”

For instance, after getting knocked around for eight runs yesterday Kazmir said:

I feel like I was throwing the ball well. The walks, I didn’t particularly like, but I thought I was attacking the strike zone. A couple of things didn’t go my way, and it kind of snowballed on me. My slider felt great, and my fastball had a downward tilt to it. But they put some good swings on it. That’s baseball. No matter how you feel, you’ve got to have some luck on your side.

He’s right, of course, and plenty of pitchers suffer from some combination of bad luck and bad defensive support. The problem is, he isn’t one of them. Kazmir went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA last season and has a 5.17 ERA in 34 starts since joining the Angels via midseason trade with the Rays in 2009.  His xFIP during that time is 5.47, so there’s an argument to be made that he’s actually been lucky.

Once an overpowering strikeout pitcher with mid-90s velocity, Kazmir’s average fastball has dipped in miles per hour from 92.1 to 91.7 to 91.1 to 90.5 since 2007. In other words, he’s been awful since mid-2009 and has been hemorrhaging velocity on his fastball since 2007. And it sounds like he’s lost even more miles per hour, as DiGiovanna reports that he was clocked in the high-80s yesterday.

DiGiovanna speculates that the Angels may soon have no choice but to move free agent signing Hisanori Takahashi into the rotation and release Kazmir, but they’d clearly prefer to have Takahashi in the bullpen and cutting Kazmir would involve eating the $12 million he’s owed this season and $2.5 million buyout on his contract for 2012.

Or as manager Mike Scioscia put it:

Regardless of what options we have or don’t have, our goal is to get Kaz back pitching as effectively as he did at the end of 2009. That’s our focus now. We’ll see where this leads.

Losses, most likely.

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”

Brock Holt has been shut down from game activity

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Things have gone from bad to worse for Red Sox’ outfielder Brock Holt, who was shut down “for the foreseeable future” on Friday after meeting with head trauma specialist Michael Collins. The Red Sox placed Holt on the 10-day disabled list in April after he began experiencing vertigo, the latest in a series of head injuries he’s sustained since last spring.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, the outfielder was initially advised to attempt playing through his symptoms, but it quickly became apparent that the strategy wasn’t going to work. Now, the plan is to shut him down from any game activity in the hopes that he’ll be able to recover from all lingering symptoms before returning to the roster. Club manager John Farrell told reporters that the 28-year-old is still cleared to take batting practice and work on his defense, but won’t continue his rehab starts in Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.

Holt had been making regular appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox and was batting .209/.292/.372 with two home runs through 14 games this spring. This season marks his fifth run within the Red Sox’ organization. He experienced a bit of a slump at the plate in 2016 and slashed .255/.322/.383 after breaking out during his first All-Star year in 2015.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests that the team’s concern for Holt extends past his setbacks at the plate. It’s still a long road to a full recovery, and while Farrell told reporters he believes the outfielder is on track to make a return sometime in 2017, he’ll need to make sure that Holt is both physically and mentally prepared to do so.