CLE@LAA: Kazmir strikes out four over four scoreless

HOUSTON -- Just eight months ago, Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir was pitching about 10 miles away in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land throwing for the Sugar Land Skeeters, an independent league team in its inaugural season.

Kazmir is scheduled to be removed from the disabled list on Saturday and will start that evening's game against his hometown Astros. It will be his first appearance in the Major Leagues since pitching one game for the Angels at the beginning of the 2011 season.

Going all the way down to independent ball would be tough to take for some Major Leaguers. Kazmir turned it into a positive.

"It was fun," said Kazmir, who made 14 starts for the Skeeters and went 3-6. "I had a great time. I was lucky that team was over there last year. It was just a good setup, 20 minutes from the house. It was great settling in, to get back in the swing of things."

Kazmir, a regular in the Tampa rotation for five years, never doubted his ability to pitch, despite being released by the Angels in June 2011, after five disastrous starts for Triple-A Salt Lake City.

"I knew what I was capable of," he said. "I knew I just needed some reps. I ended up going to winter ball in Puerto Rico. I had a good winter. The team I played for, Edwin Rodriguez was the manager."

Rodriguez is the manager of the Indians' Double-A team in Akron, opening a door for Kazmir in Cleveland. He signed a free-agent Minor League contract.

Kazmir understood there were no guarantees going into Spring Training.

"I had to prove more to myself than anything, being out for so long," he said. "I was able to do that. It seemed like every day my game was starting to come together, starting to click."

Kazmir knew there would be a few nerves attached to making his return to the Majors, particularly with plenty of family and friends scheduled to be in attendance Saturday night.

"Especially to get that first one out of the way," he said. "I'm excited. It's finally coming up. I had a little hiccup along the way, starting the year."

Kazmir was simply playing catching the day before Opening Day, when he felt a pop in his oblique that put him on the disabled list to start the season.

"That was frustrating, to say the least," he said.

"You go out there the first time you want to show out, you want to do real [well]. At the same time, you don't want to overthrow. You want to stay within yourself and get your game. You have to slow back on that adrenaline."

"If anything, that will help him," Tribe manager Terry Francona said of Kazmir not having pitched in the Major Leagues for a while. "He's very excited about it. We just have to get him stretched out [in innings]. He can pitch. He's not going to be nervous."

Bourn forced to watch Astros series from dugout

CWS@CLE: Bourn exits game after headfirst slide

HOUSTON -- Indians center fielder Michael Bourn made it back home on Friday, but he will have to watch from the dugout as his team plays against his former club, the Houston Astros.

Bourn was placed on the disabled list on Wednesday, retroactive to Monday, with a lacerated right index finger.

"Now that's disappointing," he said. "You always want to be able to come home and play."

Bourn was born in Houston a little over 30 years ago, played in college at the University of Houston and spent most of four seasons with the Astros. He still lives in Houston in the offseason.

"This is home," he said. "Nothing's changing.

"I've got to sit it out [the series]. "Nothing I can do about it. Let the wound heal, then try to get back in the swing of things. I can't really do too much. It's my throwing hand and you hit with your bottom hand."

Bourn's finger was heavily wrapped.

"Just take it one day at a time," he said. "When it heals, I'll be back. I'm not positive when it's going to be."

Bourn was injured in the eighth inning of Monday's game, when Boston pitcher Matt Thornton accidentally stepped on his hand while Bourn was sliding into first base.

"I felt the pain, but I didn't know what was wrong with it," Bourn said. "I saw the blood leaking a little bit, I thought it might be kind of bad. But I'm all right. Luckily, it's not worse. That's better than it being broken."

Cleveland signed Bourn as a free agent in the offseason after the outfielder played the last season-and-a-half with Atlanta. How does he like Cleveland?

"It's cool," he said. "We've got a chance to be really good. I like the makeup of our team."

Sometimes Cleveland can be too cool for a baseball player.

"That's the only thing I have to get used to," Bourn said of playing near Lake Erie. "That cold weather is no joke. But I'm adjusting to it. I put it in my mind, I know it's going to be cold. I'll be fine. I played in Philadelphia. I just hadn't done it in a few years."

After only two weeks with the Indians, Bourn couldn't notice any difference between the American and National Leagues, except for the designated hitter.

"I haven't played a whole lot of games," he said. "It's a little more offensive than the National League because of the DH. But that's automatic. You've got good pitchers in both leagues. People think the National League is a fastball league, but they'll mix it up."

Despite being gone from Houston less than two years, there aren't many Astros left who are former teammates of Bourn.

"I know Bud [Norris] and Wesley [Wright]," he said. "There might be a few others."

Kipnis glad to be back in action against Astros

CLE@HOU: Kipnis swipes his first bag of the season

HOUSTON -- Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was back in the lineup for Friday night's game against the Astros, batting second. He finished 2-for-4 with a stolen base in the Tribe's 3-2 loss.

Kipnis had not played since last Friday against the Chicago White Sox due to soreness in his left elbow, As a result, he was getting more than a little itchy to get back in the game.

"Especially with my personality, it drives me nuts not to be playing," Kipnis said. "I hate it, not to be able to get out there. I'm happy to be in the lineup tonight."

Kipnis pronounced himself ready to return after a session on Friday afternoon in the batting cages at Minute Maid Park.

"Better, definitely better," Kipnis said. "I've gotten to the point where I'm not trying to compensate for the elbow. Not worried too much about whether it's going to give out on a certain swing. There's still a little soreness, but to the point where now, I feel I can handle it and play through it."

"He feels pretty good," manager Terry Francona confirmed. "The whole idea was not to rush it, so if he took a swing he wouldn't hurt himself. Now, he can get right back in there and take off."

Kipnis isn't sure how he injured the elbow.

"I couldn't pinpoint it," he said. "There's no specific event that happened. I woke up, went in and it just wasn't too good. Something was wrong in there. I've been taking the necessary steps afterwards."

Kipnis had played in eight games this season, hitting just .125 with three doubles and two RBIs.

Defensively, he wasn't sure what to expect on Friday night.

"I haven't had a game situation yet," he said. "If I straighten it out real fast, we'll see how that goes. I'll take some ground balls during BP. Everything else seems good enough to play."