OAKLAND -- Scott Kazmir became attractive to the A's when his fastball averaged 92.5 mph over the course of the season, general manager Billy Beane said Wednesday after the free-agent pitcher's signing became official.
It was, Beane said, "the velocity he had in 2005" when Kazmir was a hard-throwing 21-year-old rookie left-hander opening eyes while pitching for Tampa Bay.
Two years ago, however, Kazmir was pitching for the Los Angeles Angels' Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City, where he'd been sent to get his game back together. He went 0-5 with a 17.02 ERA with 20 walks and 22 hits allowed in 151/3 innings.
"I remember facing him in Triple-A, and he was throwing 84-86 mph," said A's third baseman Josh Donaldson, a former teammate of Kazmir's during winter ball in the Dominican Republic. "That's what makes him such a great story. Look at how he's been able to bounce back. Facing him last year when he was with the Indians, he was tough again, throwing a fastball in the mid-90s with sneaky life. He's made it back."
Kazmir left the Angels organization after that miserable stretch in Salt Lake, returned home near Houston and continued pitching in 2012 for Sugarland, a nearby independent team.
"Sugarland was a lot of fun," Kazmir said in a conference call Wednesday. "It was 20 minutes from my house, and it was a great venue to get back into the game."
He showed enough that Cleveland manager Terry Francona persuaded him to join the Tribe. The more Kazmir pitched, the better he looked. Throwing for the Indians in the middle of a pennant race, he dazzled in September with a 2.57 ERA.
"We liked his body of work last year, it was very good," Beane said. "We faced him a couple of times, and one game was outstanding. And he finished the season very strong."
Kazmir, having gone from two-time All-Star to pitching in the independent leagues, is more aware than most of the vagaries of baseball.
"Mentally, going through all that, it was having to find yourself again," Kazmir said. "With the Angels, I was having to pitch with 50, 60 percent of my stuff. Now I have a lot more velocity again and a lot more control. It gives you more confidence going into every start."
Word got out Monday of Kazmir's signing to a two-year, $22 million contract, but he had to pass a physical before the deal became official. While waiting, the A's dealt for Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, Texas center fielder Craig Gentry and San Diego setup reliever Luke Gregerson.
The A's did this in advance of the winter meetings that begin Monday in Orlando, Fla. It seems like the A's could mostly be on the sidelines during the meetings, but they figure to keep busy taking offers on left-hander Brett Anderson, who was their opening day starter.
The A's don't have to deal Anderson, who missed most of the 2013 season with leg injuries. But if they could add some muscle in the middle of the lineup, Beane likely would jump at the opportunity.
Kazmir's addition gives the A's three left-handed candidates for the rotation, including Anderson and Tommy Milone. The A's also have good young right-handed pitching in Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Sonny Gray, none older than 26.