February 6, 2013
The Lineup Card
8 Interesting NRIs
1. Scott Kazmir
Kazmir’s career then gradually went downhill. He hit rock bottom in 2011 when he made one start for the Angels and was banished to the minor leagues despite having a $12 million salary. He has not pitched in a major-league game since, and he spent last season with the Sugar Land Skeeters—Roger Clemens’ team—in the independent Atlantic League, posting a 5.14 ERA in 14 games.
The Indians signed Kazmir to a minor-league contract this offseason, and he will be in major-league camp. Kazmir figures to get a legitimate chance to win a spot in the starting rotation because the Indians’ pitching depth is thin. The odds seem stacked against Kazmir, though. If he couldn’t get Atlantic League hitters out with any consistency, it stands to reason he would have a hard time with big-leaguers. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting low-risk gamble and, though it seems eons ago since he was a rising star, Kazmir is still just 29 years old. —John Perrotto
2. Nelson Figueroa
He was in camp with the Blue Jays last year and never played a game in their organization, and ever seeing Phoenix is a steep long shot. But he'll find someplace this year. Whether it's Reno or another repeat, he'll find a place where they need a 39-year-old who is smart enough to get Triple-A hitters out, who can pitch every fifth game because it's on the schedule, who won't get hurt, and who is a magnet in the clubhouse. Realistically, Figueroa's last act in the majors was probably the eight games for the 2011 Astros in which he posted an 8.69 ERA throwing 87-88 mph and a billion breaking balls, but he isn't ready for that to be the end. —Zachary Levine
3. Addison Russell
A graduate of Pace High School in Florida, Russell could be a watershed player for the A's, who have traditionally steered clear of teenagers and emphasized collegiate talent in the amateur draft. The last prep-school prospect that the Athletics drafted, developed, and graduated to the majors in Oakland was right-hander Trevor Cahill. The last position player? You'd have to go all the way back to Eric Chavez, the 10th overall pick in 1996, who debuted on Sept. 8, 1998.
And that's why Russell, who was also the first high-school position player that the A's have selected with their top draft choice since Chavez, is poised to create a stir at the team's camp in Phoenix. He won't make the team this year, and ge still has a long way to go before a ticket to The Show is in order, but Russell is Oakland's best hope to snap the streak and add more flash to a Yoenis Cespedes-led lineup in the coming seasons. —Daniel Rathman
4. Aaron Cook
So Aaron Cook is like you or me in that he can't strike out major-league hitters. He's not like you or me in that he can sometimes, occasionally, get major-league hitters to get themselves out. This makes him different from you and me, though really not all that different. You and me, we like players like us. We like players who show us that we could be major-league players ourselves even though we can't. Aaron Cook might just be the closest to you and I left in the major leagues. He's hooked on with the Phillies, the new team of Delmon Young and Michael Young. On such a team there might just be room for Aaron Cook yet. Here's hoping so. For our sake. —Matthew Kory
5. Rick Ankiel
Except that it wasn't. He went back down to the minors and focused on offense, turning himself into a decent hitter with some power who was athletic enough to play a league-average center and re-emerged at age 27 as a semi-regular and even had a couple of good years. The past few years have seen a drop-off in Ankiel's production at the plate, and now he's hanging on by a thread, but he made it. There was even a rumor floating around that if the whole outfield thing didn't work, he might give pitching another try. It probably won't happen (he hasn't pitched in most of a decade), but if it did, how awesome would that story be? —Russell A. Carleton
6. Pedro Feliciano
In 2010, Feliciano dominated left-handed hitters (.211/.297/.276 over 139 PAs), but he struggled against right-handers (.336/.436/.395 over 141 PAs). His velocity was down when he made a few rehab appearances later in 2012, and he’s a long shot to make it back to his former glory days, but the southpaw is an interesting player who has a chance to add something to the cross-town rivalry if he can get back to the majors with the Amazins. —Hudson Belinsky
7. Bobby Crosby
Crosby missed 63 games due to injury in 2006, and 62 in 2007. The next year he remained mostly healthy, but his skills had eroded: At age 28, he hit .237/.296/.349 with seven homers and a pedestrian 0.9 WARP. After another disappointing season in Oakland, the team that had taken Crosby with the 25th pick overall out of Long Beach State let him go.
Crosby signed with the Pirates in December 2009. He did very little for four months before being traded to Arizona, where he did even less and was released after only a few weeks. He followed that by not playing baseball in 2011 and 2012.
This spring he's back with the Brewers as a non-roster invitee. It's hard to imagine that the now-33-year-old Crosby has anything left to offer, but Milwaukee needs infielders and, well, he used to be one of those. —Geoff Young
8. Yangervis Solarte
Solarte is no shortstop, so he likely won't make the Rangers team out of camp, but entering his age-25 season, there's always the chance he gets a cup of coffee as a utility bat, because, man, can he...well, you know the rest... —Mike Ferrin