Two more roster moves of note on this Friday evening for the Cleveland Indians. One is the continuation of a move made a few days ago and another is the fruition of a report from some time ago.
First things first, it did not take long for the Toronto Blue Jays to pounce on Russ Canzler. The new-look Jays have been involved in a flurry of moves this winter, and even a few have involved them trading some players with the Indians. Not only did the teams complete the swap for Mike Aviles, the Indians claimed Toronto's Mike McDade off waivers and in return, the Jays claimed Cleveland's Russ Canzler on Friday.
Canzler had a real opportunity to play at the major league level in September this past season. What he did, .269 average with three home runs and 11 RBI, combined with his 22 home run, 79 RBI season for the Clippers, apparently was not enough for the Indians to keep him around on the 40-man roster when they signed Mark Reynolds.
And now, Canzler is property of the Toronto Blue Jays. The man I like to call Crusty Rusty seemed to have an edge on the competition in a roster spot this spring, but with Rule V pick Chris McGuiness and McDade, the pool of those types of corner guys with power potential got a little crowded. Now it's a little more open, with Matt LaPorta perhaps also being in the mix.
As for the signing the Indians made, it comes exactly a month after ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Indians, among other teams, scouted left-handed starterScott Kazmir in winter ball. Now the Indians have signed him to a minor league contract and will slot him into their rotation battle. Will he win a spot? He'll have to come in and impress, but he certainly has the opportunity to reclaim his potential.
Kazmir was not in the majors last year, pitching for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters (yup), with Roger Clemens even at one point. His last year was 2011 and he made exactly one start for the Angels giving up five runs and then never being heard from until now. Kazmir once won 13 games and struck out 239 hitters, all at the age of 23 when he was a young phenom in the making with the Rays. He's never lived up to the hype that he came with when the Rays received him in the deal from New York that sent Victor Zambrano to the Mets.
This offseason he's been pitching for Gigantes in the Puerto Rican league, as he's made five starts and posting a 4.37 ERA in two losses. He has struck out a team-high 27 hitters however. The Indians are used to making these signings, and having some success to boot. Their latest project was Carl Pavano and he's since had a re-surgance as one of the more reliable arms in the major leagues.
However Pavano, and even Kevin Millwood before him, did not have injury issues derail their careers like Kazmir has. He'll not only have to prove that he's healthy, but that he's corrected everything that has caused him to drop off as a major league pitcher.
The Twins also signed a reclamation pitching project in Rich Harden, which makes Brandon Webb, another name the Indians were rumored to be looking into, one of the higher-upside starting pitching risks a team could take a chance on. Kazmir will compete for the rotation in spring training, but he will really have to impress and put up good numbers.
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