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Mike Scioscia Stunned By Scott Kazmir's Collapse, Still Confident In Angels Club

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been one of the league’s most consistent teams since Mike Scioscia took over the managerial duties back in 2000. Since then, the Angels have failed to post a winning record just three times. Of course, one of those seasons was last year in 2010 when they won 80 games and finished third in the AL West snapping a three-year run as champs of their division.

There are infinite factors that determine the success or failure of a baseball team, but when a big free agent signing goes wrong, it can have an inordinately negative impact on a club. And for more than just one year because of the nature of guaranteed salaries in Major League Baseball. The Angeles are dealing with one such disappointing — left handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, who the Angeles acquired in the middle of the 2009 season. Since joining the club, Kazmir had posted a pedestrian record of 11-17 with an ERA over 5.30. The Angels had seen enough and opted to release the 27-year old last week. Quite a shock for a guy in his prime who at one point earlier in his career in Tampa Bay looked like he might mold into one of the league’s best pitchers at about this stage in his career.

For as shocked and dismayed as Mike Scioscia is by Kazmir’s unraveling, he’s upbeat that the Angels still have what it takes to return to the postseason in 2011. We’ll see if they have enough firepower, but they’ve certainly got to feel good about where they are in the standings considering they’re three games under .500 (35-38) at nearly the mid-way point of the season.

On Friday, Scioscia joined The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio to talk about the release of Kazmir, potential rule changes concerning collisions at home plate, and what he’s expecting of his squad in the second half of the season. The Angeles kick off a three game series against the reeling Florida Marlins Monday night in Miami.

Do you view this as an Angels team in transition considering you haven’t been as strong as you have been in years past?

“There is definitely some transition going on with some younger players, but I think our team is definitely championship caliber. That’s what we are going to keep moving forward with. We have some guys like Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, who haven’t gotten into their game and are very important to us. Some of our pitchers are starting to pitch a little bit better. In the bullpen especially that’s very important to us moving on. I think sure there is always a slight transition going on with the team and we have a lot of youngsters that are coming up and are trying to cut their baby teeth in the big leagues and there’s going to be some learning curves and growing pains, but the talent is there and we feel we are a contending team and we have not hit stride at all this year. We see potential to get this thing going and you want to keep this thing moving forward a little bit at the time and hopefully get on that run.”

What happen with Scott Kazmir to fall off and be released at the age of 27?

“This is really…some of it was baffling. Some of it you could see little glimpses coming as we were…last season for a guy to fall so much from where he was just a year and half ago is mind boggling. This guy was throwing the ball well for us in 2009. He came up and pitched very well. We traded for him and he pitched very well in late August into September and the playoffs and stuff looked good, maybe he didn’t pitch as well as he could, but his stuff was really good. It just disappeared. We’re trying to find out…obviously for the last year we’ve been trying to find out what’s happening, trying to look into mechanics, he wasn’t injured. Unfortunately for us and Scott [Kazmir] it got to a point where not only was he not making progress every time he went out there. He was really struggling to just do anything that was going to help him compete even at a Triple A level. Definitely for his benefit and for ours also we need to move on. We hope he gets it back. He is 27. He is a young pitcher. It was just that his stuff is just not there at all.”