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3.12.2013

Spring Training Rundown: Kazmir Makes Case, Hill Makes Bullpen

Nino Colla | Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

Exactly 20 days. That's how many more days that I can use the calendar hanging above my desk.

Of course I'm talking about the calendar I received last year at an Indians game. Once March ends, the calendar has no use. Which means one important thing.

I need to get a new calendar.

How annoying is that? Especially since I don't particularly care for spending money on a new one, because knowing me, I'll want something cool. Why can't I just automatically have a new Indians one ready for me to use?

Why? Why? Why?

Just let me have nice things... Or a new calendar ready and waiting to go.

[KAZ THE MAN]

Scott Kazmir really wants a rotation spot.

Photo - Chuck Crow via Cleveland.com
The former Angel went against his former team on Monday and did one heck of a job in establishing a claim to be in the Indians rotation come April.

"He attacked the zone," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They had a good lineup today, so it was a good test for him. I thought he did really well."

The Angels very much had an 'A' lineup out there with the likes of Bourjos, Callaspo, Hamilton, Trumbo, Kendrick, Wells, and Ianetta and Kazmir held them at bay. He gave up just three hits, walked one and struk out four. He garnered three groundball outs and two flyouts as well, facing 15 hitters total.

"Everything went well," Kazmir said. "I felt pretty good out there. I wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be, but at the same time, I was throwing strikes. That's all you can ask for at this time. It went well."

Kazmir wasn't his sharpest, but he certainly has been pretty sharp thus far. Through 11 innings this spring, he has yet to surrender a run and has walked just two hitters total.

As things stand right now, I'd put Kazmir in the rotation. Why not? Let's find out what he has right now. Let Carrasco come back at his own ease and manage his innings early on instead of at the end of the season. Let Bauer get a little seasoning in Triple-A. Let Dice-K get his feet under him and see what he has later.

Give Kazmir his shot now. It's looking very much like he has found himself and re-tooled his game to the point where he can be effective again and he could give this rotation just the addition that they need if he is right.

Indians - 0 | Angels - 0

[BOXSCORE]

The game ended in a scoreless tie, which says a lot about what the pitchers were able to accomplish in this one, as we already discussed about Kazmir earlier.

In addition to Kazmir, Joe Smith, Matt Langwell, Preston, Guilmet and Dice-K all threw scoreless frames, Langwell with two. More on Dice-K in a second.

Smith got his second taste of action since spring has started, giving up a hit and striking out a batter, much better than the first time out. Langwell struck out a pair and Guilmet with one as well. Guilmet is pretty much perfect on the spring thus far, definitely should make an impression on the coaching staff if he keeps it up.

There were no runs, but there was still some offense. Michael Bourn had a pair of hits, including his first double of the spring. The team did go 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position, but had hits from Brantely, Mike McDade, and Drew Stubbs, who also walked and stole a base.

'B' Game: The Indians also had a B game earlier in the day with Justin Masterson, Cody Allen, and Matt Capps al pitching to get some work in. Masterson didn't walk a hitter and struck out four, another sharp outing for the Opening Day starter.

Next Game: The Indians have a rare spring off day on Tuesday with no action. The Indians will be back on Wednesday in Glendale to take on the White Sox. Ubaldo Jimenez starts, followed by Allen and Bryan Shaw.

[DOWN GOES DICE-K]

As mentioned earlier, Daisuke Matsuzaka left the game with a cramp in his right calf. Dice-K pitched one inning and was not able to go after tossing warm-ups.

"He was cramping in his calf," Francona said. "It's just hard to let a guy pitch like that, if he hurts himself. He came in after his first inning and he was trying to loosen it up. We told him when he went out, if it was bothering him, to let us know. You could tell when he was warming up he just couldn't get it to loosen up."

No telling how this will effect him thus far. Mostly because we don't know to what extent he is injured, but it would be safe to say that he is now pretty behind in the battle.

And here's the thing about it all. It may be for the best. The way Kazmir has thrown thus far, he deserves a shot and it would be great to see him get that. You can't give shots to him and Matsuzaka, at least not early on at the outset of the season.

So maybe it's best if Matsuzaka goes down to Columbus (because who's going to give him a shot right now?) and waits, gets himself steady and ready to go. And not if, but when (because no rotation ever stays in tact for 162 games) the need arises, he gets his.

Dice-K may still have it. He's had an okay spring thus far, but there is also still time left. The way things are headed though, he probably will be hurt by this. Even if he turns out to be okay, he will probably have to be held back a bit, just enough to where he has to work his way back not at the same pace as the other guys up for the job.

And if you can't even make it to the same level everyone else is, in terms of throwing a certain amount of pitches, you can't even be considered, right?

So it may be best if the Indians just take a cautious approach to whatever this happens to be, and let's Dice-K get some time in Triple-A to not only make sure things are all good, but also gain some confidence and put up some effective outings before a possible shot in the majors.

[HILL MAKES THE PEN]

Quite the surprising move made by the Indians on Monday. Without any sort of indication prior to, the Indians have essentially put Rich Hill into the bullpen.

After moving Blake Wood to the 60-day disabled list, the Indians purchased Rich Hill's contract and placed him on the 40-man roster. It now locks in another bullpen spot, leaving the likes of Hagadone, Barnes, Allen, Shaw, and Capps to fight for whatever spots may be left.

This does guarantee the Indians will have a left-hander in the bullpen and goes along the lines of what I've been saying with these bullpen jobs. The Indians always have guys like Hill in the mix to take up innings. However, Hill might actually be a sneaky addition though. Francona got to see Hill as a member of the Red Sox for a few years.

"It's a shame, because he had gotten really hot when he got hurt," Francona said of Hill's injury in 2011. "It was probably the best roll of his career, and then last year he had a little setback. But it's pretty obvious he looks healthy. The ball has got a ton of life."

Hill can be effective and if he ends up being the Tribe's number one lefty out of the pen, then it was a great pickup. Hill has given up just one unearned run this spring and has truck out eight hitters. I mean, it's not like he hasn't earned it so far.

And as he said, he can now focus on establishing a routine and not worrying about a roster spot. He's in.

This will certainly impact the chances of Barnes and Hagadone making it. Of course the Indians can take more than one left-handed pitcher, but with one already locked in, it isn't a dire need for one of them to make it. I still think Hagadone has a really good shot, but I'm not sure we saw Hill making the roster a few weeks ago, at least not with Hagadone also pitching effectively in spring thus far.

[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

FINALLY! The Indians did it! I don't know if it was through my campaigning (it was not), but the Tribe finally got on the bandwagon and filmed a Harlem Shake on Monday.

I mentioned the idea a few weeks ago when I became obsessed with the video. None of the Indians took me up on the offer. But Nick Swisher apparently ushered the Indians into the movement.

"You've got to have fun in this game, man," Swisher said. "We're kind of in the grind of spring right now. So I figured a little costume Monday would really spice it up -- take away the monotony. Man, the boys came through full force. We had so much fun this morning."

Contract paying dividends already.

Swisher was dressed in full-Ohio State Buckeye football uniform, helmet, pads, jersey, pants, and all. Some of the other costumes including Jason Giambi as greenman (little thicker), Josh Tomlin as the Naked Cowboy (fitting), and Terry Francona as a baby. Oh I cannot wait to see this. I may watch it on loop for 24-hours. Seriously...

For a few good images of the different costumes, you can visit reliever and Harvard-man Frank Herrmann's Twitter timeline.

Anthony Castrovince did as only he can do by taking something as ridiculous as the Harlem Shake and giving us a theme. Perhaps it shows you exactly what the Indians will be about this year, and that's...excitement.

All I know is that the Indians should be nothing if not entertaining, and they demonstrate as much with what has quickly become one of the more liberated clubhouse environments in the game.

"Very, very loose," Kazmir said. "It kind of reminds me of the Rays back in the day, just how loose we are. A lot of young guys and free spirits. Swisher brings it out of all of us, it seems."

Swisher brings it out, and Francona encourages it, as evidenced of the picture he hung of himself just inside the clubhouse doorway. He's wearing an oversized Indians cap and a goofball grin, with a note reading, "I demand respect."


Francona went on to tell Castro a story about how in 2011 at the annual fantasy football draft that the Red Sox would have as a club, how the team didn't look to really like each other in the clubhouse. He says that the team needs a positive vibe and perhaps the Harlem Shake is just another way to keep the clubhouse loose and free.

All for it. All for it.

Asdrubal Cabrera is indeed on his way back to the club and will be in camp on Wednesday after Venezuela was ousted from the World Baseball Classic. Teammates Vinnie Pestano and Mike Aviles will face off against each other in the next round. Team USA and Team Puerto Rico face off at 8:00 PM.

Wednesday is the day that Mark Reynolds will possibly take batting practice, with the aim of returning to game action on Thursday.

The Indians signed the rest of their pre-arbitration players to one year contracts on Monday. That includes the likes of Vinnie Pestano, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Carrasco. They also optioned out some of their younger guys to Triple-A, all of whom didn't factor any of the roster battles: Tim Fedroff, Trey Haley, T.J. House, CC Lee, and Danny Salazar. They also re-assigned Matt LaPorta and Fernando Nieve to minor league camp.

And sad face, but the Indians also parted ways with Ben Francisco, giving him the opportunity to latch on with another team and perhaps find a spot somewhere else. It is really early in the process, so that chance is definitely there. Benny fresh had a slight opportunity there for awhile, but Zeke Carrera came on strong and Ryan Raburn is just Rakin' too much.

Finally, I had the chance to go on the Ohio Baseball Weekly show Monday night to talk about some of today's topics, including Scott Kazmir and the race for the final rotation spot, as well as Terry Francona's impact on the Indians franchise and the exciting offseason. Some great discussion was had with some great questions, so check the guys at Ultimate Sports Talk out.

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