Kazmir, Cueto acquired at deadline for postseason pushes
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Astros swung a deal for Scott Kazmir in July with October baseball in mind.
The Royals did the same for Johnny Cueto.
It’s only fitting the two talented pitchers, acquired by their teams three days apart, will oppose each other in Game 2 of their AL division series on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.
”It’s a big responsibility for someone like me that gets traded to a contending team, to be able to bring these guys to the postseason,” Kazmir said Thursday. ”It’s just a matter of staying confident and pitching my game. There’s a lot of things you can’t control on the mound to where you have to stay confident in your abilities and know what you’re capable of doing.”
The Astros traded right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham to Oakland for Kazmir, a hometown kid whom they had pursued in free agency. In doing so, they got a veteran left-hander to slip into the top of the rotation with Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.
But the 31-year-old Kazmir wasn’t nearly as effective for the Astros as he was for the A’s, going 2-6 with a 4.17 ERA in 13 starts. That led some to wonder whether manager A.J. Hinch would be confident enough in Kazmir to send him to the mound for Game 2.
”He’s had three games against the Royals this year. He’s done very well in all three of those games,” Hinch said, alluding Kazmir’s 1-1 record and 2.11 ERA against Kansas City.
”It factors in a little bit in the decision-making,” Hinch said. ”He’s comfortable in this ballpark. Maybe he likes the mound.”
The fact that Kazmir will be facing Cueto is surprising on two fronts.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore usually is reluctant to make deals for rental players headed toward free agency. The small-market club is built through the amateur draft and developing its players, so by shipping a trio of left-handed pitchers to Cincinnati for Cueto, Moore was making a rare gamble with the future to win in the present.
Once Cueto was acquired, most thought he would be the Royals’ playoff ace. But like Kazmir, he struggled for a long stretch after the trade, so Yordano Ventura got the Game 1 nod.
That worked out anyway. Cueto will now pitch Friday on his normal rest.
”The most important thing here is to win games, whether I’m pitching one, two, wherever,” he said with catching coach Pedro Grifol translating. ”The most important thing is to win games. … I need to pitch on regular rest. I don’t like to pitch on four days’.”
Cueto allowed one run over five innings on Sunday in Minnesota.
”Johnny’s last four or five starts have been really, really good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, ”and we look forward to having him have another really good one tomorrow night.”