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Scott Kazmir, former Mets' No. 1 pitching prospect, is on comeback tour

Sugar Land's Scott Kazmir pitches during a game

Sugar Land's Scott Kazmir pitches during a game against the Bridgeport Bluefish (July 8, 2012) Credit: Wilf Thorne

Scott Kazmir was once the Mets' top pitching prospect. Saturday, he pitches against the Ducks.

The Mets' No. 1 pick in the 2002 MLB draft, the Texas gunslinger was expected to one day anchor the starting rotation.

Ten years later, Kazmir, now 28, continues his comeback attempt, pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters against the Ducks at Bethpage Ballpark.

But the lefthander is off to a rough start in the Atlantic League. Kazmir has started two games for the Skeeters, allowing a total of eight earned runs and eight hits in two innings, leaving him with an 0-2 record and a 36.00 ERA.

Kazmir never did pitch for the Mets. In 2004, he was traded with Jose Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.

At Tampa Bay, he won 55 games, second-most in Rays' history between James Shields (80) and David Price (54).

In 2007, he led the American League with 239 strikeouts. His average of 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings is No. 1 on the Rays' all-time list.

Kazmir was a two-time All-Star for the Rays but elbow problems landed him on the disabled list in 2008 and 2009.

Kazmir, who signed a three-year, $28.5-million contact with Tampa Bay, was traded to the Angels in August, 2009. He went 11-17 with a 5.31 ERA in three seasons for the Angels and was released after posting a 17.02 ERA in five Triple-A rehab starts.

This past offseason, he worked out for multiple major-league teams, including the Mets, but could not land a contract.

"I've been playing baseball my entire life," Kazmir said. "And when you take 13 months off, you come back and everything just feels brand new."

Kazmir signed with the Atlantic League Skeeters earlier this month. "They have been very encouraging," he said. "The results don't show too much progress stuff-wise, but what I'm throwing up there, I feel comfortable and confident. It's just another steppingstone. I have to keep working to get better."

Former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, now the Orioles' director of pitching development, said he believes it is possible that Kazmir can make it back to the majors.

Said Peterson, "We've seen it happen many, many times."

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