03/06/2013 7:01 PM ET
Kazmir developing command in comeback bid
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Scott Kazmir took the mound on one of the Indians' practice diamonds on Wednesday morning. As he pitched against an assortment of Minor Leaguers, scouts seated behind the backstop raised their radar guns in an attempt to help quantify Kazmir's comeback.
Cleveland described the venue as a Minor League "B" game, giving Kazmir a chance to focus on his command rather than results. Members of the Indians' front office monitored the three-inning outing closely, as did manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
Callaway was asked if Kazmir -- out of the big leagues for nearly two years -- might be pitching with a chip on his shoulder.
"Definitely. I would, if I were him," Callaway said. "So I'm sure he does. He knows he can be a No. 1 starter again, and that's what he's trying to show."
Such a development would be a blessing to a Cleveland pitching staff beset with unanswered questions.
As things stand, Kazmir is in camp as a non-roster reclamation project, hoping to prove he is worthy of being trusted with one of the two vacancies at the back end of the starting staff. His competition includes Zach McAllister, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Corey Kluber and David Huff.
In Wednesday's workout, Kazmir concentrated on throwing his slider, and the left-hander ended with no runs allowed on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Four of his five strikeouts came on sliders, and he finished with 54 pitches, including 36 strikes. Kazmir logged 26 pitches in the third inning, but said he was using offspeed pitches in fastball counts at various points.
It was a chance to work on repetition, regardless of the count or situation.
"I made some adjustments that really helped me out," Kazmir said, "as far as getting what I wanted out of the break and make it a little bit later, making it look a lot more like my fastball. I was actually throwing mainly slider, but I was even working in the curveball and changeup.
"It was a lot of things I wouldn't normally do in a game situation, just to get a lot more reps in."
Callaway said there was much better "depth" on Kazmir's slider compared to previous outings. In three games this spring -- two Cactus League appearances and the Minor League game -- the lefty has turned in seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts and one walks. On Wednesday, Kazmir was consistently around 90-92 mph with his fastball.
"I'm still building up my arm strength, for sure," Kazmir said. "But that [velocity] is the least of my worries. The hitters tell me everything I need to know when it's getting on them pretty good. I know I'm right where I need to be."
Huff open for any available job with Indians
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- David Huff is willing to accept any job the Indians might have to offer for the Opening Day roster. Cleveland has been building up the lefty's innings like a starter this spring, but a bullpen role as a long reliever is also a possibility.
Huff already knows what his answer would be to either assignment.
"I'd say, 'OK,'" Huff said. "Whether I'm starting or I'm in the bullpen, I don't care. It's a job in Cleveland. I don't care where it is. I can be giving signs over at first base, as long as I'm up there."
The 28-year-old Huff is up against Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka for one of the two vacancies at the back end of Cleveland's rotation. Huff is also in the conversation, along with multiple arms, for one of the handful of available spots in the Indians' bullpen.
Considering that Huff is out of Minor League options, Cleveland is keeping an open mind.
"He's in every mix," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's why we're keeping him stretched out as long as we can. And then you kind of start making decisions based on how your team is set up. The last thing you want to do is, too early in camp, tell a guy he's going in the bullpen and then try to stretch him out again. That doesn't work."
In Tuesday's 4-3 Cactus League win over the Giants, Huff allowed one run on three hits in three innings of work. He struck out three hitters and issued one walk in the effort. Huff's lone gaffe came in the sixth inning against left-handed-hitting Brandon Belt, who launched a solo homer off the southpaw.
On the spring, Huff has given up four runs on six hits in seven innings, during which he has turned in five strikeouts and three walks.
"My approach right now is I'm season ready," Huff said. "Outside of some fine tuning here and there, it's just building it up. I had the whole offseason to get ready."
Francona just wants to see more consistent command.
"He has to locate, especially arm side," Francona said. "If he can keep his fastball on the outer half of the plate and locate -- because he has Major League stuff across the board -- he should be able to have success."
Carrera making run at already speedy roster
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians know they will have plenty of speed in their starting lineup this season. One question the team needs to answer this spring is whether it wants to carry another impact baserunner as part of its bench.
Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, who is out of Minor League options and competing for a job as Cleveland's fourth outfielder, entered Wednesday with a team-leading five stolen bases this spring. Carrera also has the ability to play all three outfield positions.
"His speed impacts the game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's got the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark occasionally. He can be an interesting part of the bench, when he can change a game with his speed. He's a good little player."
The 25-year-old Carrera has hit just .111 (2-for-18) with one home run through nine Cactus League games this spring, but his speed and defense are what make him an attractive bench option. In 48 games with Cleveland last year, Carrera hit .272 with two homers, six doubles, three triples, eight stolen bases, 11 RBIs and 20 runs scored.
At Triple-A Columbus last year, he hit .294 with 31 extra-base hits, 26 stolen bases, 42 RBIs and 65 runs in 97 games.
Utility man Mike Aviles, who has a 74-percent stolen-base success rate over his career, is already a lock to be on the team's bench. Beyond backup catcher Lou Marson, leading candidates for the other two bench vacancies include Jason Giambi, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Carrera.
Among the lineup regulars, Cleveland boasts stolen-base threats in Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis and Drew Stubbs. Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera are also capable of swiping 10-plus bases in a season. Given that collection of solid baserunners, the Indians could potentially get away without having another fleet-footed runner on its bench.
"It's not necessary, but it's nice," Francona said. "I think Aviles, although not a burner, he can steal a base. He's a good baserunner and he watches pitchers. He's very intelligent. So he can do that. But, Carrera has kind of the speed where he can outrun [throws] sometimes."
Quote to note
"He doesn't just talk the talk. He walks it and he lives it and he believes it. It works. I don't care what people thought of him before. I know how we feel about him here, and that's what's important. I know our guys love him, and I do, too."
-- Francona, on Nick Swisher
• Francona has made it no secret that he holds 42-year-old veteran Giambi in high regard. That said, Francona said Wednesday that he is not ready to say whether Giambi (a non-roster invitee vying for a job as a part-time designated hitter and pinch-hitter) is a front-runner for a spot on Cleveland's bench.
"There's no denying that we love him -- absolutely love him," Francona said. "But I don't want to start talking about the roster yet. I don't think that's fair, because somebody else will read something into it. If everybody stays healthy, we're going to have some difficult decisions."
• According to Francona, Indians sidearmer Joe Smith felt fine on Wednesday, one day after making his Cactus League debut with a one-inning appearance against the Giants. Smith, who had a minor left abdominal strain early in camp, allowed two runs on two hits, but threw 13 of his 14 pitches for strikes.
"I think he said he was a little tight, but nothing [to worry about]," Francona said. "He's really taken care of himself really well. The fact that he came out and pounded strike after strike after strike, that was really encouraging."
• Indians left fielder Michael Brantley, who suffered a left forearm laceration after being spiked while sliding into third base against the A's on Feb. 25, will likely have his stitches removed on either Thursday or Friday. Brantley might be cleared to resume game activity at some point this weekend.
• Indians right-hander Matt Albers, who is a leading candidate for a spot in the club's Opening Day bullpen, worked one inning in a Minor League "B" game on Wednesday. Albers allowed no runs on one hit with one walk and three outs via grounders. He threw 13 pitches, including seven strikes.
• Francona noted that Swisher has been keeping his throwing arm "stretched out" for potential use as a right fielder for the Indians. The manager added that Cleveland will likely play Swisher in right field later this spring to keep him ready for possible part-time outfield duty.