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Kazmir developing command in comeback bid

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Scott Kazmir took the mound on one of the Indians' practice diamonds on Wednesday morning. As he pitched against an assortment of Minor Leaguers, scouts seated behind the backstop raised their radar guns in an attempt to help quantify Kazmir's comeback.

Cleveland described the venue as a Minor League "B" game, giving Kazmir a chance to focus on his command rather than results. Members of the Indians' front office monitored the three-inning outing closely, as did manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway.

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Callaway was asked if Kazmir -- out of the big leagues for nearly two years -- might be pitching with a chip on his shoulder.

"Definitely. I would, if I were him," Callaway said. "So I'm sure he does. He knows he can be a No. 1 starter again, and that's what he's trying to show."

Such a development would be a blessing to a Cleveland pitching staff beset with unanswered questions.

As things stand, Kazmir is in camp as a non-roster reclamation project, hoping to prove he is worthy of being trusted with one of the two vacancies at the back end of the starting staff. His competition includes Zach McAllister, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Corey Kluber and David Huff.

In Wednesday's workout, Kazmir concentrated on throwing his slider, and the left-hander ended with no runs allowed on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Four of his five strikeouts came on sliders, and he finished with 54 pitches, including 36 strikes. Kazmir logged 26 pitches in the third inning, but said he was using offspeed pitches in fastball counts at various points.

It was a chance to work on repetition, regardless of the count or situation.

"I made some adjustments that really helped me out," Kazmir said, "as far as getting what I wanted out of the break and make it a little bit later, making it look a lot more like my fastball. I was actually throwing mainly slider, but I was even working in the curveball and changeup.

"It was a lot of things I wouldn't normally do in a game situation, just to get a lot more reps in."

Callaway said there was much better "depth" on Kazmir's slider compared to previous outings. In three games this spring -- two Cactus League appearances and the Minor League game -- the lefty has turned in seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts and one walks. On Wednesday, Kazmir was consistently around 90-92 mph with his fastball.

"I'm still building up my arm strength, for sure," Kazmir said. "But that [velocity] is the least of my worries. The hitters tell me everything I need to know when it's getting on them pretty good. I know I'm right where I need to be."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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