Scott Kazmir said he had not felt that good on the pitcher's mound in quite a long time.
The 28-year-old lefty, now pitching for the Atlantic League's Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters, had an unsightly 36.00 ERA in two starts entering Saturday night's assignment against the Ducks.
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But the former Mets farmhand rebounded to throw four scoreless innings in front of a crowd of 6,407 at Bethpage Ballpark in the Skeeters' 2-0 win. He threw 64 pitches (41 strikes) and struck out three with no walks. His fastball was clocked at 88-89 miles per hour.
"I made a couple of adjustments in my last bullpen session, and it made a huge difference," Kazmir said. "I was able to repeat my delivery, throw strikes and get quick outs. I felt good out there."
Kazmir opened his outing with consecutive strikes to Reid Gorecki, who flew out to leftfielder Aaron Bates for the first out. Former Met Timo Perez flew weakly to third for the second out, and Ray Navarrete lined out to rightfielder Steve Moss to end the inning.
Eleven pitches, eight for strikes, and Kazmir had posted his first scoreless frame since signing with the Skeeters.
"It's always important to get off to a good start, just to get confident out there," Kazmir said. "After that first inning, I was able to breathe a little bit and go out there and pitch my game."
After working around an error, Kazmir induced a 6-4-3 double play from Kraig Binick to complete his second scoreless inning. With a scheduled pitch count of 60-65, he entered the fourth having thrown 46 pitches.
Kazmir ended his evening by striking out Shawn Williams on a changeup. He threw mostly fastballs but also mixed in his curveball and slider.
The Kazmir comeback, though, is still a work in progress.
"It's about getting his arm back game ready and throwing good pitches, not necessarily a box score," Skeeters president Matt O'Brien said earlier in the week. "For our team perspective, obviously we're here to win, but this league is also a little bit about development. And this is part of the development process for him."
Kazmir's third start represented a seismic step forward.
"I felt a lot more in control," he said. "My first two outings, I was kind of dusting off the cobwebs. It's been a while since I've been out there competing against hitters. You can throw bullpen sessions as much as you want, but once you get out there with live hitters, it's different."
Before signing with the Skeeters, Kazmir had been off 13 months since being released by the Angels.
"It definitely felt like a major league atmosphere, for me personally," Kazmir said. "That's my approach going into a game."
While a big league comeback might not be in the immediate cards, Kazmir shut down an opposing lineup. And that's a step in the right direction.