Scott Kazmir is back and better than ever

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Scott Kazmir finished last season very strong with a 2.57 ERA and 43/4 K/BB ratio in five September starts and pitched well overall for the Indians, but when it came time to cash in as a free agent teams proved skeptical about his career being back on track after he fell all the way down to independent ball.

Kazmir ended up signing a two-year, $22 million deal with the A’s, which was less than half of what fellow free agent starters like Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, and Rickey Nolasco got and even a step below the money that went to clearly inferior talents like Scott Feldman and Jason Vargas.

Now the A’s look brilliant for taking the risk on Kazmir and the 30-year-old left-hander looks every bit like the dominant pitcher who starred for the Rays from 2004-2008. Last night Kazmir tossed seven innings of two-run ball against the Red Sox, improving to 9-2 with a 2.08 ERA on the season. Dating back to June 20 of last season–one calendar year–Kazmir has started 33 games with a 2.59 ERA and 187/44 K/BB ratio in 198 innings while allowing just 13 homers.

Kazmir went four years without being an effective big leaguer and two of those seasons without throwing a single pitch in the majors, but now at age 30 he looks as good as ever.

Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title

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The Marlins announced on Sunday that outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title when the city of Miami host’s the All-Star Game festivities next month.

Stanton, 27, defeated Todd Frazier in the finals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Petco Park, hitting 20 home runs to Frazier’s 13. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs in the Derby. This will be the third Home Run Derby in which Stanton has participated.

Stanton also went 1-for-3 with a solo home run to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs 4-2 on Sunday. He’s now batting .274/.357/.551 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 311 plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.