GOODYEAR, Ariz.: The more Scott Kazmir pitches, the more the Indians’ deep thinkers want to see him pitch, and that includes in a practice game against minor-leaguers.
Kazmir worked three innings (55 pitches) in just such a setting Wednesday at his own request. He didn’t like the way his slider was progressing, and he felt he could fix the problem easier in the low-pressure atmosphere of a simulated game on a back field at the Tribe’s complex.
“When that pitch is going good for me, it’s my best pitch,” said Kazmir, who felt that he made whatever adjustment he was seeking.
Tribe officials seem happy with Kazmir’s velocity. On Wednesday, his fastball sat at 91 miles per hour, at times rising to 93 and once or twice falling to 89.
“His velocity is a little better than we thought it would be, especially the life he had on it,” pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “And when that slider is going good, it’s a swing-and-miss pitch.”
Kazmir did not allow a run, giving up three hits, walking one and striking out five.
“I’m still building arm strength, but that’s the least of my worries,” Kazmir said. “The hitters will tell you how you’re throwing.”
One spot is open in the rotation, and the frontrunners for the job are Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“Scott knows he can be a No. 1 starter again,” Callaway said.
Matt Albers threw one inning (13 pitches) on the back fields and gave up no runs, one hit and a walk.
And the sun shined
Manager Terry Francona said it was a “good day,” and he was talking about more than the Indians’ 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday at Goodyear Ballpark.
“This was our best day of the spring, from cutoffs to scoring — we got a couple of double plays — to base running,” he said. “It was a good day all around.”
That included the pitching of Justin Masterson, who threw four scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out three.
“Masterson set the tone for a really good day,” Francona said.
Masterson threw his slider for the first time in a spring game and was pleased with the results.
“I mixed in a couple of sliders,” he said. “I got some double plays, gave up a couple of base hits,” he said. “I’m pretty much where I want to be early in spring.”
Just enough offense
Mark Reynolds doubled and singled, raising his average to .409, and Yan Gomes singled twice to lift his average to .412.
Matt Carson was struck in the helmet by a Matt Palmer pitch in the sixth inning, and the helmet landed 15 feet from the plate. Carson began to take his base, but was quickly led off the field.
“He passed all the tests [to determine whether he sustained a concussion] with no problem,” Francona said. “We took him out right away and sent him to the doctor.”
Two batters later, Palmer hit Ryan Rohlinger in the back.
Michael Brantley is one or two days away from getting the stitches removed from his left arm. He probably will play in a game a day or two after that … Francona plans to use Nick Swisher occasionally in right field just in case the Tribe’s new first baseman needs to temporarily return to his old position. “He’s been keeping his arm stretched out,” Francona said. … In praise of Kazmir, Francona said, “At the beginning of camp, he could have gone out there and won. That’s how good he was.”
The Indians stay in Goodyear, Ariz., today to play the San Francisco Giants. Ubaldo Jimenez will start against Tim Lincecum.