PHOENIX (AP) — 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.
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