By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Scott Kazmir and Zach McAllister have flip flopped positions in the Indians’ rotation in an effort to give Kazmir more time between starts.
Kazmir is not coming off a major injury, nor anticipating one in the future. However, the last time he came even close to pitching a full season was 2010, when he amassed 150 innings for the Los Angeles Angels and another 6⅓ in the minors.
The next season, he pitched 1⅔ innings in the big leagues and 15⅓ in the minors. In 2012, Kazmir virtually dropped off the face of the earth, finding work on a Sugar Land, Texas, independent league team, for which he pitched 64 innings and began to rediscover his mechanics.
This season he has worked 119 innings going into his start Sunday against the Minnesota Twins.
“We’re trying to space him out [his starts] so that he is pitching at the same high level all year,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s nothing competitively, we’re just doing it for Kazmir.”
In other words, it’s not that Francona wants another starter to supplant Kazmir because of performance.
“His arm is fine, but I think his body is a little beat up,” Francona said.
Kazmir isn’t the only Tribe starter being treated gingerly. Danny Salazar, who made his major-league debut last month, is being handled with great care.
In his last start against the Angels Tuesday night, Salazar threw only 75 pitches (5⅓ innings) and was removed after giving up one run and three hits.
Three years ago, Salazar underwent elbow reconstruction surgery, but enough time has passed that the operation shouldn’t be an issue. However, as a starter for Triple-A Columbus for most of the season, Salazar seldom threw more than 80 pitches, so Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway are not about to let him throw 100-110 pitches at this point in the season.
Does this mean in September, when rosters can be expanded to 40, the Indians will call up at least one pitcher to make spot starts as a way to ensure that Kazmir and Salazar remain fresh?
“Obviously, September makes it easier because you have the extra bodies,” Francona said. “But it will depend on who we bring up and some other things. There are different ways to get guys extra days in September.”