By all accounts Scott Kazmir has, well, not looked like the Scott Kazmir of recent years, the one who’s once brilliant career sputtered at the age of 25 and all but flamed out two years later. It got so bad, in fact, that the former two-time All-Star washed up on the shores of the Atlantic League, an independent level of baseball not affiliated with any MLB clubs.

And in 14 starts with the Sugar Land Skeeters, Kazmir sported a 5.34 ERA to go along with some less than impressive peripherals (7.2 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9). Simply put, at 28-years-old he hardly resembled the pitcher he was just five years previous, the one that averaged 10.8 punch outs per nine innings between 2006 and 2008.

Maybe it was the sour taste failure had left in his mouth. Or maybe it was his competitive nature. What the reason, though, he couldn’t just pack his bags — and the $30+ million he made — and walk away, not yet at least. Instead, he inked a winter league deal with the Gigantes de Carolina, where, lo and behold, his once powerful arsenal returned.

When Scott Kazmir was good — really, really good — his fastball would sit in the low 90s and frequently touch 94+. During his last stint in the big leagues (2011), that once above-average pitch was clocking a pedestrian-like 86. Now, though, there are numerous reports that state the oomph behind his heater is back.

And rounding the halfway point of Spring Training, the former 15th overall pick has yet to allow a run while striking out eight and issuing just one free pass in eight innings. All of which has led to some chatter that Kazmir may be leading the way for Cleveland’s open fifth spot in the rotation. Of course, with the recent admission that Matt Capps and Diasuke Matsuzaka won’t be making the Opening Day roster only strengthens Kazmir’s case.

But after eight innings of work? In Spring Training?

Yes, the initial return has been more than favorable, not only for the Indians but also for the left-hander’s confidence. But, really, in terms of sample size, Kazmir’s eight innings is on the microscopic, subatomic level. Last year Andy LaRoche, another former top prospect, hit .385/.484/.462 and promptly followed that up with a .251/.335/.422 Triple-A line. Or what about the time in 2007 when Mike Rouse (who?) looked like Babe Ruth in exhibition play, hitting .352/.407/.611 in 20 games?

The point is simple, really. It’s Spring Training and the stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, the bounce back in velocity is a very positive sign, but can Kazmir maintain it for five, six, or even seven consecutive innings? Or what about from start to start on four days rest? Or what about 25+ starts?

There are an awful lot of questions that need to be answered. And with so many other huge question marks in the rotation (Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, etc…), wouldn’t the prudent choice be  Corey Kluber, who can at least chew innings, and slowly bring along Kazmir, using him as middle reliever then as a swingman? And then if everything goes well enough find a spot for him in the rotation.

The Indians are hoping to catch lightning in bottle with the once dominant southpaw. But the problem is lightning always lasts for a split second. What the Indians have in Scott Kazmir — potentially — may be something that lasts much longer — if they bring him back slowly.


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  • Kevin Price says:

    They are trying to win and Scott Kazmir can be either great or turn out poorly but giving the spot to Corey Kluber is a safe bet that wouldn’t help the Indians win MORE games but would likely be a 0-1 WAR player.

  • Joe Werner says:

    Yes, Kluber is definitely the safe route. But Masterson and Jimenez could chew up a lot of the bullpen. Kluber, however, could help alleviate that, at least until some of the question marks begin to shake out.

    Carrasco is a better bet than Kluber. But how many questions can one rotation stand?

  • medfest says:

    We’ll find out over the next two weeks as the starters are stretched out,whether Kazmir is ready.Also,don’t forget they don’t keep stats for B games.

    Kluber has all but pitched his way out of contention for that last spot(6.93 ERA,1.86 WHIP),it didn’t help that he got a late start because of knee surgery.

    Kyle Lohse still lurks in the background,if his price drops dramatically, the Indians would give up the least(in terms of a draft choice) to sign him.

    • Drew says:

      Lohse will not be signed until after the June draft.

      • medfest says:

        If the Tribe could sign him for 2 years at a total of 17 million or so they would do it.
        That would be a dramatic drop in his asking price though.

    • Kevin Price says:

      I would prefer Kazmir over Lohse even. He has a higher ceiling for way less money.

  • Eddie Bubb says:

    Kazmir is a starter….period. Ther eis no room for him to “bring him along as a middle releiver”. At who’s expense? Ablers? Allen? Shaw? There’s no room there.

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