CLEVELAND — Oakland’s Scott Kazmir was looking forward Friday to making his first start at Progressive Field since resurrecting his career with the Indians last year.
It wound up being an unceremonious return after the left-hander was ejected by home plate umpire Jerry Layne for arguing balls and strikes in the second inning.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Kazmir, who went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts for Cleveland last year before signing a two-year, $22 million contract with the A’s in the offseason. “I was really looking forward to this start and this is probably the best I’ve felt going out there, felt I was hitting a lot of spots and it just didn’t work out.”
Kazmir, who had walked nine batters over eight starts (51⅓ innings) prior to Saturday, clearly wasn’t jibing with the veteran Layne’s strike zone, walking three batters before being tossed after 1⅓ innings. His walk to Jesus Aguilar on a 3-2 pitch that was confirmed a strike by K Zone, pushed Kazmir over the brink, though he was one of many who thought Layne’s trigger finger may have been quick.
Layne said he warned Kazmir after walking Aguilar. Kazmir also appeared bothered by a walk to Michael Brantley in the first inning.
“I said, ‘That ball is right there,’ and the next thing I know, I’m out of the game,” Kazmir said of his 3-2 pitch to Aguilar. “I think the warning (from Layne) was in mid-breath, like, warning and then, ‘You’re out of here,’ same breath. So it was a little surprising. But what are you going to do?
“I just think that it’s something that happens, a bad day for both of us.”
Kazmir did not contain his frustration upon being ejected. He slammed his glove off the dugout bench and kicked a garbage can down the stairs on his way to the visiting clubhouse.
“I wanted to apologize to the trash can,” Kazmir joked. “It did nothing wrong. I was just frustrated.”
The Indians were only willing to offer Kazmir a one-year contract this winter, but the veteran who spent the 2012 season pitching in the independent league, has continued his comeback trail with the A’s.
The former Cy Young contender with the Angels is 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA, which ranked sixth in the American League through Saturday.
Indians ace Justin Masterson is one of a number of starting pitchers mentioned in trade rumors with the Yankees, whose rotation has been hit hard by injuries — including one to former Cleveland pitcher CC Sabathia.
Masterson signed a one-year contract to avoid arbitration prior to the season, but he and the Indians were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term deal this spring — despite the pitcher’s offer of a discount.
The Indians wrap up the homestand with a three-game series against Central Division leader Detroit that begins tonight at 7:05.
Corey Kluber (4-3, 3.38 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing LHP Drew Smyly (2-2, 2.70).
The Indians have the unfortunate task of facing both RHP Justin Verlander (5-2, 3.15) and RHP Max Scherzer (6-1, 2.83) in the final two games of the series Tuesday (7:05 p.m.) and Wednesday (12:05 p.m.). Cleveland counters with RHP Trevor Bauer (0-1, 1.50) and Zach McAllister (3-4, 5.36).
- Triple-A Columbus RHP Travis Banwart improved to 3-0 with a 3.35 ERA in eight starts, allowing a run on seven hits Saturday in an 8-1 win at Syracuse. Banwart, 28, was signed as a minor league free agent this offseason after beginning his professional career with Oakland in 2007.
- Class A Lake County shortstop Paul Hendrix went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .336 in a 5-2 win at West Michigan on Saturday. Hendrix, an 18th-round pick in last year’s draft, entered Sunday with five homers and 16 RBIs in 31 games.
- Right-hander John Axford has gone from high-profile closer to mop-up man. He pitched in the ninth inning of the lopsided loss to Oakland in the series finale.
- Michael Bourn hit his first home run of the season and first since Sept. 17.
- The Indians are 10-4 with injured outfielder Nyjer Morgan in the lineup — 9-21 without him.