OAKLAND -– Just two weeks ago, Scott Kazmir was saying his goodbyes inside the A’s clubhouse at the Coliseum.
On Thursday, Kazmir could be found just down the hallway in the visitors’ clubhouse wearing a Houston Astros uniform. The lefty has picked up right where he left off since his July 23 trade from Oakland to Houston.
In three starts with the Astros, Kazmir has allowed just one earned run over 20 1/3 innings, showing he can be a difference-maker for a team that is trying to hold off the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers in the American League West.
Kazmir just pitched Wednesday against Texas, so the A’s won’t face him during this four-game series. Perhaps that’s good news for the A’s, considering Kazmir’s 12-6 record and 2.73 ERA at the Coliseum dating back to the start of 2014.
“It’d be nice facing those guys. It would have been fun,” Kazmir said. “… I love this foul ground territory. What pitcher doesn’t?”
Kazmir was historically great last month, posting a 0.26 July ERA that ranks as the third-lowest in major league history (dating back to 1914). He accomplished most of that work in an Oakland uniform. But it was his leadership qualities that had A’s manager Bob Melvin gushing before Thursday’s game, particular Kazmir’s positive influence on Sonny Gray.
“It was really impressive how Scott did that, and it’s not like Scott was here five or six years. (Last year) was his first year. He kind of took Sonny under his wing. For a guy that was only here two years. It felt like he was here longer than that.”
Coco Crisp was back in the lineup after not starting Wednesday due to neck soreness that resurfaced. He felt good enough to hit the field early with A’s first-base coach Tye Waller to work on his feet-first slides on the basepaths. Crisp has always dove head-first over his career, but given his chronic neck issues, he’s trying to train himself to go in feet-first in an effort to stay healthier.
While many of his teammates were just getting dressed to hit the field for batting practice Thursday afternoon, Crisp came in already having worked out, the back of his pants covered in dirt stains.
“We’re trying to get him a feel for what he wants to do during a game,” Waller said. “The thing is, in the heat of the moment, I hope he stays with it. If he bangs his head gains a guy’s knee, it can jar (his neck). I think this is a better way. And (infielders) block the base so much, they’re less likely to do so if you go in feet first.”
Added Melvin: “We’ll see how it goes for him, but hopefully it keeps him out on the field a little bit more, and less wear and tear on the neck.”
Right fielder Josh Reddick also returned to the lineup after sitting the past two games with lower back stiffness.