LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Instead of continuing to try to figure out how to uncomfortably fit Scott Kazmir into their plans, the Braves opted to release the veteran left-handed pitcher shortly after he provided an unimpressive outing during Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Yankees.
Initially, the Braves said Kazmir exited Saturday's outing with a fatigued left arm. But when this final decision was made, it was clear that they had seen enough over the past month to determine the three-time All-Star likely wouldn't be an asset at full strength.
When Kazmir was acquired as a fiscal piece of the financially motivated trade that sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in December, it seemed inevitable that the Braves would eventually reach this point where they would eat all or at least a significant portion of the $16 million salary the 34-year-old is owed this season.
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Kazmir missed all of last season with the Dodgers after suffering a hip injury and only became an Opening Day roster candidate after a rotation spot opened when Luiz Gohara sprained his left ankle. His bid to fill Gohara's spot was not impressive enough to stop the Braves from finding another option in Anibal Sanchez, who signed a Minor League deal last week after being released by the Twins.
Sanchez now stands as the most likely internal candidate to eventually fill Gohara's vacancy. The Braves may not need to carry a fifth starter until April 10.
The Braves weren't comfortable with the idea of utilizing Kazmir as a long reliever until that date. But they didn't have another viable option because the veteran left-hander would have had to be designated for assignment if not placed on the Opening Day roster.
Because Sanchez signed a Minor League deal, he will not need to be placed on Atlanta's active roster until necessary.
Kazmir's fastball sat below 85 mph during most of the scoreless 18-pitch sixth inning he completed on Saturday. It had rested around 88 mph during his previous Grapefruit League outings. He blamed the performance on fatigue that developed after he threw 90-100 pitches in a side session on Wednesday and completed five innings in a Minor League game on March 17.
"I just need a couple days to let it rest and maybe even just one day," Kazmir said. "[My arm] just felt heavy. It just felt super tired."
Teheran's final tuneup
When Julio Teheran takes the mound at SunTrust Park on Thursday, he'll become the first pitcher in Atlanta history to make five consecutive Opening Day starts. More importantly, he'll be pitching with the confidence he lacked as he couldn't consistently find a feel for his slider last year.
"I would say my slider is back," Teheran said. "I can tell the way [opposing batters] are swinging. That's when you know you have a pretty good pitch."
Teheran allowed two earned runs and three hits as he completed five innings in his final start of the spring on Saturday. The solo homers surrendered to Aaron Hicks and Ryan McBroom in the fourth inning accounted for half of the four runs he was charged with over 25 2/3 innings this spring.
"He's come in on a mission," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "When he came in here, he had a plan of what he wanted to do. To me, it looks like it's worked. He's put a lot of hard work into every start. I feel like he's been really focused."