Scott Kazmir takes a tiny step forward

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Angels don’t like to go public with such things, but you get the impression the ice under pitcher Scott Kazmir is barely thick enough to support his weight.

The numbers haven’t added up for him in quite some time. Kazmir was the worst pitcher in the American League with at least 130 innings last season, when he went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA. He was struggling through an even worse spring, with a 7.79 ERA in his first five starts before he held the Dodgers to one run – Rod Barajas’ home run – in a crisp 4 1/3 innings Tuesday night.

There have been so many false starts with Kazmir, it was nothing to get too excited about, of course. He’s just desperately looking for something to build on.

“I felt like all these starts right here are steppingstones,” Kazmir said. “I felt good with every one of them. A couple of them, I got erratic a little bit with my consistency, but for the most part it felt good.”

Before the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia made it pretty clear that Kazmir has to start exhibiting more confidence and getting better results soon. Scioscia didn’t finish the thought, but he probably didn’t have to. There is a troubling precedent.

In 2003, the Angels released Kevin Appier (who was 7-7 with a 5.63 ERA at the time) even though they still owed him $16 million. The Angels would have to eat $14.5 million to cut Kazmir loose now. The difference, of course, is that the Appier move came in July, not late March or early April.

But Appier had arguably been the team’s best starter the season before, when he went 14-12 with a 3.92 ERA. And like Appier’s then, Kazmir’s stuff has drastically declined. A pitcher who once routinely touched the mid-90 mph range, Kazmir didn’t make it into the 90s once Tuesday. His once-devastating slider hasn’t been seen for years.

He will no longer talk about any of his mechanical issues. Last season, he dissected his struggles in intimate detail during interviews.

“I’m not going to get into any of that. I’m just focused on going out there and just keep getting better,” Kazmir said.