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Kazmir anxious in return to mound for Braves

Veteran lefty goes one scoreless inning in debut; Fried struggles Sunday, Biddle, Pfeifer, McCreery show potential
MLB.com @mlbbowman

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Scott Kazmir has earned three All-Star selections and made multiple postseason starts, including a couple in the World Series. Still, given the frustration he experienced during last year's lost season, it was easy to understand why the Braves' left-hander felt anxious as he managed to complete a scoreless first inning in Sunday afternoon's 9-3 loss to the Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Kazmir allowed three of the four batters he faced to reach safely and recorded a strike with just 11 of the 25 pitches he threw. But because he got Bryce Harper to ground into a double play and then caught Trea Turner straying too far from third base, he escaped the eventful inning and his first start of the year in scoreless fashion.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Scott Kazmir has earned three All-Star selections and made multiple postseason starts, including a couple in the World Series. Still, given the frustration he experienced during last year's lost season, it was easy to understand why the Braves' left-hander felt anxious as he managed to complete a scoreless first inning in Sunday afternoon's 9-3 loss to the Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Kazmir allowed three of the four batters he faced to reach safely and recorded a strike with just 11 of the 25 pitches he threw. But because he got Bryce Harper to ground into a double play and then caught Trea Turner straying too far from third base, he escaped the eventful inning and his first start of the year in scoreless fashion.

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"I'm just glad he got through it," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "That was the biggest thing, getting him back on the mound. It's one of those things where you have to start somewhere and we did. We'll see how he is tomorrow and go from there."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Since acquiring Kazmir in the financially motivated trade that sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in December, the Braves have not placed any expectations on the 34-year-old veteran, who missed the 2017 season because of a hip injury and the velocity decline that followed. Anything he might provide would be considered gravy.

But with Luiz Gohara currently recovering from a strained left groin, the Braves might have an open rotation spot that Kazmir could fill.

Kazmir's fastball sat around 88 mph as he attempted to rebound from the hip injury while with the Dodgers last year. He spent this winter working with former Braves pitcher Tom House, who has established himself as a throwing mechanics guru.

During Sunday's outing, Kazmir's fastball ranged from 86-89 mph. His challenge over the next few weeks will be to prove he can maintain consistent arm strength.

Humbling learning experience
Max Fried showed his potential when he completed five scoreless innings in his first career start at Wrigley Field on Sept. 1. But as he spent last season's final month serving as both a starter and reliever, he provided reason to believe the Braves may have rushed him when they promoted him from Double-A Mississippi in August.

Fried did nothing to alter this belief Sunday, as he retired just two of the six batters he faced after starting the fourth inning against the Nationals. The 24-year-old southpaw issued a leadoff walk to Howie Kendrick and surrendered Matt Wieters' two-run homer before recording his first out. His spring debut concluded when Brian Goodwin and Turner recorded consecutive two-out singles.

Video: ATL@WSH: Wieters rocks a two-run homer to deep left

"It's their first Spring Training game, they all want to go out and impress for the whole spring in one outing," Snitker said.

Fried ranks 83rd on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. The 24-year-old lefty missed most of 2014 and all of 2015 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 5.92 ERA in 19 starts with Double-A Mississippi last year before getting his unexpected call to the Majors.

Lefty depth
Jesse Biddle, Philip Pfeifer and Adam McCreery have not yet been legitimate contenders for any of the available spots in Atlanta's bullpen. But as each of these lefty relievers produced a scoreless appearance on Sunday, they provided some indication they might at least become candidates to join the Braves' bullpen at some point this season.

Biddle has endured some bumps along the road he has navigated since being taken by the Phillies in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft. But the 26-year-old southpaw showed good arm strength, retiring each of the four batters faced. He entered with two on in the fourth and promptly induced an inning-ending groundout off Harper's bat.

Pfeifer surrendered just one hit over 1 2/3 innings and McCreery displayed a good curveball as he pitched around the two singles he allowed during a scoreless eighth inning.

Up next
Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis will make their respective spring debuts as likely Opening Day starter Julio Teheran makes his first start of the year during Monday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Nationals at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex. The contest will be broadcast on Gameday Audio.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Max Fried, Scott Kazmir