Kazmir Looks Strong In Brief Debut

One would understand if an 18-year old kid fresh out of high school would not have been at his sharpest in his professional debut, especially one that had not pitched in live competition in over two months. Even though pitching coach Bobby Ojeda had LHP Scott Kazmir on a strict pitch count Wednesday, Kazmir showed the type of stuff that made him the Mets' first round selection in the 2002 draft.

Scott Kazmir made his professional debut Wednesday in Maryland against Cal Ripken's Aberdeen Ironbirds and looked like he had not missed a beat after being named Baseball America's 2002 High School Player of the Year. After registering 172 strikeouts in just 75 innings of work his senior year and being selected by the Mets in the first round of the 2002 draft, combined with the size of his recent signing bonus ($2.15 million), all eyes were on the young man from Cypress Falls to see what he could do.

Despite walking the very first batter he would face as pro, Kazmir settled down to strike out the next batter on a series of 93-mph fastballs before closing the batter with an 84-mph curveball. But not before allowing the runner on first to steal second base. A ground out to second base advanced the runner to third. After allowing another walk, Kazmir got out of the first inning with a comeback to the pitcher.

Even though Scott had pitched in front of some sizeable crowds in high school, he had never pitched in front of 6,000 fans (the announced attendance at the game). When asked if the crowd had intimidated him, Kazmir rebuffed: "I was just thinking about throwing strikes and playing my game."

In the second inning, Kazmir allowed a bunt single and gave up another stolen base before getting out of the inning unscathed by recording all three outs with strikeouts. And with the end of the second inning came the end to his professional debut. Pitching coach Bobby Ojeda had put him on a 40-pitch count prior to the start of the game.

On his performance, Scott Kazmir said: "I felt good about my outing. My stuff was working. A couple of pitches got away from me. But overall it felt real good."

Not an imposing figure at 6'0" and 175 lbs., Kazmir consistently hit 93-94 mph on his fastball, even reaching 95-mph one time. He has four pitches: fastball, slider, curveball, and a change-up. Even with such a brief outing, you can tell he's dripping with talent.

One area of concern already may be the slow delivery caused by a high leg-kick with runners on base. Twice, Ironbird baserunners were able to steal second base with relative ease because of Kazmir's deliberate delivery to the plate.

When asked if he was impressed with Kazmir's fastball, Bobby Ojeda, the pitching coach for the Cyclones, was more impressed with his demeanor on the mound: "His fastball is obvious. I was more impressed with his demeanor. The demeanor he has was real nice. He handled himself real well."

After being baptized into professional baseball on the mound, his teammates gave him the standard rookie welcome in the clubhouse after the game...a shaving cream pie in the face! Welcome to the Cyclones Scott.

Kazmir is expected to make his next start in five days and again will be on a short pitch count. According to Ojeda, Kazmir's pitch count will be around 50-55 pitches.

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