When Scott Kazmir made his first start of the season for the Cleveland Indians against the Houston Astros back on April 20 it wasn't pretty.
Staked to a huge lead, he coughed up six runs in just over three innings, walked three and struck out four, although Cleveland still won, 19-6. Not exactly what you'd expect after Kazmir had posted some great numbers in spring training.
Since that start, the Scott Kazmir everyone has been waiting for has finally shown up.
In three starts since registering that no-decision, Kazmir has gone 2-1 and lowered his ERA from 16.20 to 4.87. His performance against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday was the best game he has thrown since his days with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kazmir surrendered five hits and allowed only one run in six innings. It didn't hurt Kazmir either that teammates Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds all homered to back him up.
Without a doubt, a six-run lead after three innings will relax any pitcher, but Kazmir still had to go out there and throw strikes. While he did allow one home run, of the 102 pitches he threw, 73 were for strikes. Kazmir walked only one and struck out a season-high 10 for his first double-digit strikeout performance since August 2010, according to HardballTalk.
The Indians are one game behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central and if Kazmir continues to pitch like this, the Indians will have a legitimate shot at competing.
It is still early in the season and it is unrealistic to say Kazmir should be considered the front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year, but I believe it.
While other players like Mariano Rivera are coming back from injury, Kazmir is coming back from a two-year period where he was written off by nearly everyone in the game and was relegated to figure out everything in the independent leagues for a first-year franchise.
Some may have seen that as Kazmir hitting the bottom of the barrel. I see that as an opportunity.
You cannot take anything for granted in this game. Insert the typical "one game at a time" comment here.
Kazmir was quoted in a recent MLB.com article by Jordan Bastian as finally regaining his form on the mound, and I couldn't agree more.
"I just feel comfortable, and I feel confident out there," Kazmir said. "And I feel like it's going to get better and better."