Indians 7, Brewers 4

Scott Kazmir hopes Sunday was a big step on his road back to the
major leagues.

Kazmir allowed one hit and struck out one in two scoreless
innings as a Cleveland Indians split squad beat the Milwaukee
Brewers 7-4.

”Until you get that first one out of the way, you’re always
going to be anxious,” said Kazmir, who hasn’t pitched in the
majors since 2011. ”Everything felt smooth, everything felt good.
I threw a lot of strikes, which is what I wanted to do.”

Kazmir’s last big league start came on April 3, 2011, with the
Los Angeles Angels, when he gave up five runs in 1 2-3 innings. He
was placed on the disabled list with lower back tightness the next
day.

He spent a month in extended spring training before reporting to
Triple-A Salt Lake and posting an 0-5 record with a 17.02 ERA. In
one start before he was released in June, Kazmir was throwing the
ball behind right-handed hitters as his command abandoned him.

It was a far cry from his 2006-08 seasons, when he went 35-25
for Tampa Bay and made two All-Star appearances.

Kazmir said his troubles date back to a triceps injury in 2008,
which was quickly followed by an injured groin muscle.

”Before, things came so natural,” said Kazmir, competing for
one of the last two spots in the Indians’ rotation. ”When things
aren’t going right and you’re trying to figure things out in the
four-to-five days before you start, you do things that aren’t
natural and it’s not good for you.”

The 29-year-old left-hander was out of the game until signing
with the Sugarland Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League last
summer. Though his numbers weren’t great – 3-6 with a 5.34 ERA in
14 starts – he said he was able to get his ruined mechanics back
under control.

”I felt I knew what I needed to do, but I had to have a lot of
reps to get that feel back,” Kazmir said. ”I’ve felt better (now)
than I did even in my best seasons.”

Kazmir was one of three potential Indians starters who took the
mound Sunday. Carlos Carrasco, who missed last season following
Tommy John surgery, started and allowed four runs – three earned –
on four hits and a walk in his only inning. Carrasco struck out
one.

”My arm’s great,” Carrasco said. ”I got too excited today for
the first time. It was my first outing today. I’ve got a couple
more. This is what happened and I can’t do anything about it.”

Top prospect Trevor Bauer, acquired from Arizona in the
offseason, followed Kazmir and allowed two hits and struck out two
in two scoreless innings.

Bauer started both innings with crow-hopped, full-effort throws
to begin his eight warmup tosses.

”I thought it looks like he’s got a good arm,” Indians manager
Terry Francona said. ”If I did that my arm would fall off, but
he’s only 22 years old.”

Brewers starter Mark Rogers, among those vying for a job at the
back end of the rotation, lasted 1 2-3 innings of a scheduled
two-inning stint. He allowed two runs on two hits and three walks.
He also threw a wild pitch.

”I wasn’t free and easy like I have been in my bullpen
sessions,” Rogers said. ”I just felt like I put a little too much
pressure on myself trying to be perfect, rather than just going up
there to throw the ball.”

Mike Aviles and Cord Phelps had RBI singles to give the Indians
a 2-0 lead in the first. Milwaukee answered with four in the bottom
half, sparked by Caleb Gindl’s two-run single.

Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer to make it 4-all in the third
and the Indians took a 6-4 lead in the fifth on an RBI single by
Mike McDade and a wild pitch by Jim Hoey.

Ezequiel Carrera hit a solo shot in the sixth for Cleveland.

NOTES: Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez played for the second straight
day and went 0 for 2, leaving him hitless in four at-bats.
Norichika Aoki also started again and was 2 for 3 with a run
scored. … Carrera and Aviles each stole a base in the first.
Phelps was thrown out at second to end the inning.