COMMENTARY | When a team overhauls its roster in the offseason as dramatically as the Cleveland Indians did over the winter, fans can only hope the new additions work out more often than not. Fortunately, that has been the case for the Tribe thus far as offseason acquisitions Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher have all played well in 2013.
Not every move pans out, though, as pitcher Brett Myers was disappointing before he landed on the disabled list, and Scott Kazmir has been shaky in his role as the fifth starter. The fact is, Kazmir needs to be sent to the minors.
Kazmir landed a minor-league contract with the Indians back in December, having been out of the major leagues since 2010, save for one start with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011. After posting a 3.46 ERA in spring training this year, Kazmir earned a spot in the Tribe's starting rotation. He began the season on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain, making his first start April 20 against the Houston Astros.
This is where the roller-coaster ride that has been Kazmir's season began. Staked to a 14-0 lead after two innings against the lowly Houston Astros, Kazmir failed to even go the required five innings for the win, instead exiting after 3.1 innings and having allowed six earned runs.
He put up a decent effort in a loss to the Kansas City Royals in his next start, followed by back-to-back victories over the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland Athletics. A poor outing in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on May 14 brought Kazmir's record to 2-2 on the season.
In his last start Monday against the Seattle Mariners, Kazmir failed to get out of the fourth inning in a game where his offense provided him with five runs in the first three innings. Even the opposing starter, Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma, managed to battle for six innings after his early struggles. The Indians cannot keep handing Kazmir early run support only to see him get knocked out the game early, leading to unnecessary wear and tear on the bullpen.
While Kazmir's return from a slew of arm problems is admirable, it seems unlikely he will ever be able to reclaim the form of his early career. The former ace for the Tampa Bay Rays, Kazmir peaked with an American League-leading 239 strikeouts and a 13-9 record in 2007. Those days are long gone, though, and the Indians have younger, better options in their farm system.
Highly touted 22-year-old Trevor Bauer has pitched well in eight starts between Cleveland and the Class AAA Columbus Clippers since coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a December trade. The plan is for Bauer to be a mainstay at the top of the Tribe rotation for years to come, which means the next bad outing for Kazmir could be his last with the Indians.
Another possibility is Carlos Carrasco, acquired in the 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies. Carrasco, 26, missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery but has been nothing short of brilliant for Columbus so far in 2013. He is 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA in seven starts for the Clippers, allowing just six earned runs in 39.2 innings.
If Kazmir's shaky form continues, it will only be a matter of time before one of these two will take his spot in the rotation. As far as this writer is concerned, that time is now.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo! Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Indians for 25 years.
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