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Kazmir shows mettle vs. Yanks' thumpers

Special to MLB.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Friday was a major test for Braves starter Scott Kazmir, as he faced what is likely to be the Yankees' Opening Day lineup that included sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez in the heart of the order.

"It's a tough lineup, it really is all around," Kazmir said. "You've got all those guys in the lineup that can do damage. You don't want to put too much emphasis on just a couple players, but at the same time, they are who they are and it's definitely a tough outing."

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Friday was a major test for Braves starter Scott Kazmir, as he faced what is likely to be the Yankees' Opening Day lineup that included sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez in the heart of the order.

"It's a tough lineup, it really is all around," Kazmir said. "You've got all those guys in the lineup that can do damage. You don't want to put too much emphasis on just a couple players, but at the same time, they are who they are and it's definitely a tough outing."

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Kazmir went two scoreless innings in Atlanta's 5-4 loss to New York at George M. Steinbrenner Field. He struck out one and walked another in his second start of the spring. The 34-year-old is trying to prove that he has enough trickery left in his left arm to earn a spot in the Braves' rotation.

"The guy knows what he is doing," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I think he feels pretty good about where he's at and how he feels. He hasn't pitched a lot, and how he's come back is encouraging."

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Kazmir managed to escape damage in both frames despite putting men in scoring position early. He issued a walk to Judge and surrendered a double to Stanton to put men on second and third with one out in the first, but left them stranded after getting Sanchez to pop out to the shortstop and getting Greg Bird to chase a high strike for strike three. Didi Gregorius led off the second with a base hit and took second on a wild pitch. Kazmir, whose fastball topped out at 86 mph, was able to work around that by retiring the next three in order.

"There's still a lot of work to do," Kazmir said. "I wish I was able to attack the zone a little bit better. I fell behind on a lot of guys, but I was able to make some good pitches to get some outs. At the same time, I still have a lot of work to do."

Kazmir appeared in just four games in 2017 -- for the Dodgers' Class A Advanced affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga -- allowing six earned runs in 12 innings before a hip injury shut him down for the season. Kazmir, who hasn't faced a big league hitter in the regular season since 2016, was acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Dodgers.

Video: ATL@NYY: Scott Kazmir on his performance vs. Yankees

"I'm just glad to see him get out there and go the two innings and feel good," Snitker said. "That's the biggest thing. It's a long process for him and if he feels really good with where he's at, that's a good thing."

Kazmir was given a warm reception usually reserved for the home team Yankees. In 2008, Kazmir was a key piece in the rotation that led the Rays to an American League pennant and the organization's only World Series appearance. He was named an All-Star that season while posting a 12-8 record with a 3.49 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings. A decade later, baseball fans in Tampa still appreciate his contributions.

Injury update

Luiz Gohara, who has been hampered by a left groin strain, is scheduled to throw his final bullpen session on Saturday. If there are no setbacks, the rotation hopeful will throw live batting practice next week in preparation for his Grapefruit League debut. The injury has set the left-hander behind schedule by roughly two weeks, but since the club won't need a fifth starter until April 11, it is possible that Gohara would only miss one start.

Chris Stewart, who is in camp trying to win a spot as the backup catcher, has also been hampered by a left groin injury and did not play on Friday.

Position battles

Right-hander Lucas Sims -- in the mix for the team's fifth-starter role -- had another rough outing Friday, allowing two earned runs on three hits in his two innings of work. He walked two and struck out two. Sims has allowed four earned runs through his first four spring innings.

Roster moves

The Braves reassigned catcher William Contreras to Minor League camp after Thursday's split-squad game. The 20-year-old Venezuelan was a non-roster invitee who spent all of last season with Rookie-level Danville, where he batted .290 with 15 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs in 45 games. He was hitless in his only two Grapefruit League at-bats this spring.

Up next: The Braves will be back at home in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to host the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET at Champion Stadium on Saturday on Gameday Audio. Probable Opening Day starter Julio Teheran will make his second appearance of the spring. He will be opposed by Philadelphia righty Miles Mikolas.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Scott Kazmir