GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The more Scott Kazmir pitches, the more the Indians' deep thinkers want to see him pitch, and that includes in a practice game against minor-leaguers.
Kazmir, the former Rays All-Star, pitched three innings (55 pitches) in just such a setting Wednesday at his request. He didn't like the way his slider was progressing, and he felt he could fix the problem easier in the low-pressure atmosphere of a simulated game on a back field at the Indians' complex.
"When that pitch is going good for me, it's my best pitch," said Kazmir, who felt that he made whatever adjustment he was seeking.
Indians officials seem happy with Kazmir's velocity. Wednesday, his fastball sat at 91 mph, at times rising to 93 and once or twice falling to 89. The left-hander regularly touched the mid 90s when he led the AL with 239 strikeouts for the Rays in 2007.
"His velocity is a little better than we thought it would be, especially the life he had on it," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "And when that slider is going good, it's a swing-and-miss pitch."
Kazmir did not allow a run, giving up three hits, walking one and striking out five.
"I'm still building arm strength, but that's the least of my worries," said Kazmir, 29, who hasn't pitched in the majors since April 2011. "The hitters will tell you how you're throwing."
HOSMER JOINS U.S.: Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer has been called upon to replace injured Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira on the United States team for the World Baseball Classic. "It's a great opportunity," Hosmer said.
MORE WBC: Alfredo Despaigne hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, helping Cuba defeat two-time defending champion Japan 6-3 in Fukuoka, Japan, and finish first in Group A.
PROSPECT RETIRES: Ryan Westmoreland, a former top Red Sox outfield prospect and the nephew of Rays home clubhouse/equipment manager Chris Westmoreland, announced his retirement about 10 months after a second brain surgery.
"Although it is a very difficult decision for me, it has become clear that the neurological damage caused by the most recent cavernous malformation and surgery leaves me with physical challenges that make it impossible to play the game at such a high level," Westmoreland wrote in an email.
Westmoreland, 22, had surgery in March 2010 to remove a cavernous malformation from his brain stem. After making significant progress, he suffered a setback and had a second surgery in July.
PROGRESS FOR CRAWFORD: Dodgers leftfielder and former Rays All-Star Carl Crawford was cleared to begin throwing and hitting today after missing six days with nerve irritation in his surgically repaired left elbow. In other Dodgers news, right-hander Zack Greinke was scratched from his start against Mexico's World Baseball Classic squad because of the flu.
CARDINALS: Former outfielder Willie McGee was hired as a special assistant to the general manager focusing on the minor leagues.
MARLINS: Third baseman Placido Polanco, out since Saturday with lower back soreness, was a late scratch from the starting lineup after he felt something while throwing.
METS: Right-hander Jenrry Mejia has a thyroid issue and returned to New York for further testing.
RANGERS: Right-hander Derek Lowe, 39, agreed to a minor-league deal, the Dallas Morning News reported.