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Indians’ Scott Kazmir hits bump in comeback road

By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer

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ANAHEIM, Calif.: Scott Kazmir’s past two starts might have the doubters preparing to gloat.

In losses to the Angels and the Athletics, Kazmir gave up 10 runs and 16 hits in eight innings. So is this the beginning of the end of the Indians’ noble experiment?

Probably not. Kazmir has exceeded everyone’s expectations, but after not pitching a full season since 2010, there was bound to be a point when he had to catch his breath.

Consequently, after revealing that Kazmir had a “dead arm” against the Angels two weeks ago, manager Terry Francona waited nine days before allowing him to start again. His arm felt stronger against the A’s, but his command suffered, probably because of the extra time off.

That is of small concern over the long haul. Kazmir’s 119 innings is the most he’s thrown in three years, when he amassed 150 for the Angels.

“I’m pleased with it, that’s for sure,” Kazmir said. “Last year I was throwing bullpens in my backyard until December. I’ve been able to keep my velocity all this time. Last year I didn’t have any velocity.”

Kazmir dropped out of sight for two seasons, not because of a serious injury but because he lost his mechanics. In a way, he forgot how to pitch. He began to get the hang of his old delivery again pitching in an independent league for a few weeks, and the Tribe gave him a huge boost by signing him to a minor-league contract that gave him the right to come to major-league spring training camp.

“Doing things over and over again got my command and delivery to be more crisp,” Kazmir said, citing what has helped the most.

He also began to throw a new pitch this season.

“I was focusing on developing my curve and slider,” he said. “But about two starts in, I started throwing a cutter.”

In spring training, he was so concerned about the state of his slider, he requested to pitch in a minor-league game to avoid his competitive tendency to get batters out rather than work on the pitch.

“The slider was big,” Kazmir said. “But all it took was a change in grip. I worked on it in games.”

What’s ahead for Kazmir and is he likely to remain in Cleveland? He can be a free agent after the season and has shown enough to be in demand.

“I want a job,” he said with a smile. “I would love to stay here. I feel like we’re getting better and better, and I want to see what happens.”

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com.


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