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Scott Kazmir talks joining Dodgers, his opt-out clause & hitting in the NL

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LOS ANGELES -- Scott Kazmir spoke with reporters on a conference call on Tuesday, six days after signing a three-year, $48 million contract with the Dodgers.

The left-hander estimated there were 12 teams that showed interest in him this winter, with the Dodgers beating our three or four finalists for his services. A unique feature of Kazmir's contract is an opt-out clause after the first season, which allows him to forego two years and $32 million if he so chooses to enter a free agent market with not quite as many ready arms as this winter.

Kazmir said negotiations with other teams never got to a point where an opt-out was discussed, but was obviously in favor of the feature.

"From a business perspective, it's always good to have options," Kazmir said, then adding, "That being said, I would be honored to finish my career as a Dodger."

That would be something from Kazmir, who will be on his fourth team in the last four seasons, and the sixth team in his major league career. That doesn't include the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012, nor does it include winter league stints in Escogido in the Dominican Republic in 2011 and Carolina in Puerto Rico in 2012.

Those lean times were needed after shoulder injuries and ineffectiveness got Kazmir released by the Angels after five Triple-A starts in 2011.

It was definitely a low point," Kazmir said. "I wanted to kind of take a step back and start from scratch, go back to fundamentals, getting away from bad habits I created. Just hard work, going through winter ball, independent ball, and slowly getting things back and feeling comfortable. Getting to know my body a lot more, that was a big difference for me."

Kazmir retreated to his Texas home, and sought the help of pitching guru Ron Wolforth, who helped him through a tough time.

"I always had the motivation because I knew it was still in there. I wasn't throwing as hard as I would like," Kazmir said. "I was in the low to mid-80s, and it just felt like there was a lot still there that I couldn't unlock at the time. It was a frustrating time."

In 2012 with Sugar Land, those 82s and 83s turned into occasional 95s, and Kazmir got his groove back. He signed a minor league deal with the Indians in 2013, then joined the big club by the end of April and put up a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts while striking out 162 batters in 158 innings.

That earned Kazmir a two-year deal with the A's, and over the last two years combined, including the final two months of 2015 with the Astros, he put up a 3.33 ERA in 62 starts, with 319 strikeouts and 373⅓ innings. Over the last three seasons, Kazmir has averaged 92.99 mph on his four-seam fastball per Brooks Baseball.

Now with the Dodgers, Kazmir joins a starting rotation that includes fellow left-handed pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, with Hyun-jin Ryu waiting in the wings while rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Kazmir said the handedness of his fellow starting pitchers wouldn't affect his preparation for his starts.

"I'm biased, but I love it, with all the lefties. I really don't think it matters what hand you throw with," Kazmir proclaimed. "If you're a guy like Clayton Kershaw, you'll do just fine."

To date, all 11 major league seasons and 272 big league games for Kazmir have come for an American League team. Kazmir, now playing for a National League team for the first time, is 3-for-26 (.115) with 10 strikeouts at the plate in his career.

"I don't get cheated. I really don't have to much of a scouting report. It's more just throw it down the middle and I probably won't hit it," Kazmir quipped. "I'm in the batting cages right now trying to iron out my swing a little bit."