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Scott Kazmir needs to prove he belongs in the Angels' rotation

Scott Kazmir is in the second year of a three-year, $28.5-million contract that will guarantee the Angels pitcher $12 million next season. That, however, will not guarantee the struggling left-hander, who is 8-13 with a 6.19 earned run average entering Wednesday's game against the Cleveland Indians, a spot in the team's rotation.

"He’s a guy we definitely want to see turn the corner and start to pitch the consistent baseball he’s capable of pitching," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But just like anyone else, when that becomes an issue and you’re not heading in the right direction, you’re obviously going to look for different options."

Kazmir, who missed a month in July and early August because of shoulder fatigue, has actually pitched a little better since his five-inning, 13-run debacle at Oakland on July 10, posting a 4.13 ERA in six starts since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 7.

But he is 1-4 in those starts and still appears a long way from his 2008 form, when he went 12-8 with a 3.49 ERA in 27 starts for the Tampa Bay Rays and had an effective fastball-slider-changeup combination.

"The lion’s share of his issues have been command," Scioscia said. "His inability to get the fastball in good zones and bring his changeup into the game on more counts has really set him back. The slider inconsistency is not as big an issue as fastball-command.

"Last year, he pitched some good games without his good slider. He needs to get his fastballs in good zones early in the count. It's been an uphill battle at times. At times he’s been able to do it and pitch some good games."

The Angels believe they have the makings of a very good rotation in 2011, with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro either under contract or club control. Including Wednesday, Kazmir will have five more starts to show he belongs; though if he continues to struggle, he would be virtually impossible to trade next winter because of his contract.

If the Angels release Kazmir before 2011 they would have to swallow $14.5 million, because the 26-year-old has a $13.5-million club option for 2012 that can be bought out for $2.5 million.

"The major leagues is always a proving ground, whether you’re Torii Hunter or Peter Bourjos, whether you're Scott Kazmir or Ervin Santana," Scioscia said. "It’s a proving ground every day, a challenge to show that position is yours, that you can help [the] team win.

"We have confidence in Scott’s ability to get to a higher level, but certainly, if options come along that will make you better, you have to consider them."

-- Mike DiGiovanna

 
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