Scott Kazmir has not made a major league start since April 3, 2011 and after winning a job in the Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation this spring he was set to make his return at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was fitting setting—that is where he had his greatest success in the big leagues and where, on September 19, 2010, he recorded his last major league victory.
But now, after a quick trip to the disabled list for a strained right rib cage the only thing that stood in his way of starting Saturday night in his hometown of Houston against the Astros was a healthy rehabilitation start against the Louisville Bats in Columbus. His start went as well as the Indians could have expected as he worked five innings, allowing just one unearned run (his own error) on five hits (all singles) with five strikeouts and no walks.
It is hard not to temper the enthusiasm for Kazmir’s performance. He pounded the strike zone early and often with 41 of his 62 (66 percent) of his pitches in the strike zone and he threw first pitch strikes to 12 of the 18 batters he faced. His off-speed pitches were attractive out of his hand but would dart and dive out of the strike zone at the last minute which generated 12 swinging strikes (19 percent) and two double-play balls. There was not an on-screen radar gun, but the play-by-play guy did relay that several fastballs were in the 91-92 mph range.
The Louisville Bats lineup is not loaded with talent but it did include Reds speedster Billy Hamilton, who reached base on a two-strike bunt single in the first inning. The other notable player in the lineup was former Indian Jason Donald, who delivered two singles off Kazmir but was thrown out trying to extend one of them into a double.
The Indians rotation would certainly receive quite a boost if Kazmir is able to translate his performance Monday night to the big leagues and his absence was certainly felt as both Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco struggled with their command and control (in more ways than one) in his place.
As for the rest of the game? The Clippers were leading 2-1 after five innings and Kazmir was replaced by Carlos Carrasco. In the sixth inning Juan Diaz hit a two-run homer to extend the Clippers’ lead to 4-1. Carrasco worked four scoreless and hitless innings, striking out two and walking none. His only blemish on the evening was a hit batter. Like Kazmir, Carrasco pounded the strike zone, throwing 26 of his 40 pitches for strikes and also had great command of his off-speed arsenal.
A few more observations from the game:
- An interesting visual was seeing Armando Gallaraga (who left with a hand injury) and Jason Donald as teammates with the Bats.
- Also interesting to see Jason Donald who was acquired along with Carlos Carrasco in the Cliff Lee trade face each other.
- Top prospect Billy Hamilton has a long way to go in learning to play center field. He has tremendous speed but is just starting his transition from shortstop to center field and his routes to the ball are very poor.
- The victory was Scott Kazmir’s first in major league affiliated baseball since September 19, 2010.
- In pitching the final four innings Carlos Carrasco earned his first professional save.