OAKLAND -- The Indians relied heavily on left-hander Scott Kazmir during their run to the playoffs last season. Kazmir gave Cleveland an incredible comeback story in a memorable summer, but his days with the Tribe officially came to an end over the winter.
Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the A's and, as fate would have it, the lefty will face his former team in his first outing of 2014 on Wednesday. Following a rainout on Tuesday, the Indians will square off with the A's in a day-night doubleheader today.
"I know they're going to try to mess with me while I'm up on the mound, try to take away from my focus," Kazmir said. "But I'll just be locked in. I can't even stare at them because they're a bunch of jokesters over there."
Talk about a good scouting report on Cleveland.
"He'll get a smile from me in the box or something," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "And I'm sure there will be something going on when [Nick Swisher] gets in the box."
After being out of affiliated baseball in 2012, Kazmir joined the Indians on a Minor League contract and won a job out of Spring Training. He then won 10 games, posted a 4.04 ERA and ended with 162 strikeouts in 158 innings. In September, when Cleveland punched its ticket to the playoffs, Kazmir had a 2.57 ERA with 43 strikeouts against just four walks in 28 innings.
"It's awesome to see a guy go from his backyard and independent ball to signing a two-year, $22 million deal," Kipnis said. "When you become friends with a guy, that kind of security, that kind of stuff for his family, you want nothing but the best for him. You're really happy about it. You wish it could've been with us, because you thought he had a good year.
"But, either way, the way it worked out, you're still happy for him to get that deal."
After losing Kazmir to the A's and Ubaldo Jimenez to the Orioles -- both via free agency -- the Indians decided the time had come to give more responsibility to starters Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister. Kluber is slated to take on Kazmir in Game 1 on Wednesday and McAllister is scheduled to start in the night game. Oakland has yet to announce its starter for Game 2.
Indians manager Terry Francona believes Kluber (11-5 with a 3.85 ERA last year) and McAllister (9-9 with a 3.75 ERA last season) are ready to carry a heavy load.
"We need them," Francona said. "I think they're embracing the challenge and, now, they've just got to go do it."
The A's will be looking to bounce back from Monday's 2-0 loss to the Indians, who rallied for two runs in the ninth inning against closer Jim Johnson. It was the kind of late rally that Kazmir saw plenty of times during his brief tenure with the Tribe last summer. The lefty is more than familiar with the lineup he will face come Wednesday.
"They know me. I know them," Kazmir said. "It's more of a cat-and-mouse game now. They know my tendencies and, for the most part, I know their tendencies. It's going to be a game of adjustments, I think. It's going to be fun out there, for sure."
Indians: Francona mixes it up atop order
With center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring) on the 15-day disabled list, Francona used the left-handed-hitting Nyjer Morgan in the leadoff spot against A's righty Sonny Gray on Monday. For Tuesday's lineup against Kazmir, Francona put switch-hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera atop the order.
Tuesday's game was rained out, but Cabrera will likely remain in the leadoff spot against Kazmir in Game 1 of Wednesday's split doubleheader.
"It's no big deal for me," Cabrera said. "I was leading off four years ago, so I know what I have to do. I'll just try to get on base for those guys behind me, and score some runs. The leadoff guy for the team, he's not playing right now, Michael Bourn. Somebody's got to do it."
Bourn is not expected to miss much time, so Francona is trying to mix and match until the center fielder returns.
"It's a little bit of a different lineup against a lefty," Francona said. "I think if they turn the lineup over, having Cabby there is good, because he's a switch hitter. If we swing the bats, the lineup is not going to really be the issue. Until Bourny gets back, not moving everybody seems to make sense."
A's: Melvin to keep shuffling options at first base
Oakland manager Bob Melvin plans to alternate left-handed-hitting first basemen Brandon Moss and Daric Barton against right-handed starters, while Alberto Callaspo is expected to draw the start at the position against left-handed starters.
Moss served as designated hitter for Monday's opener and was listed in Tuesday's lineup at first base (against Kluber) before the game was rained out. Barton was on the bench and gives the club a strong late-inning defensive option on days that Moss gets the nod.
"I do want him to get in the field some," Melvin said of Moss. "You don't want him to be a straight DH, and with the versatility we have on our team, we'll be able to get him out there some and get Daric out there, too."
• Tuesday's postponement marked only the 19th rainout (regular season and postseason) in the history of the Coliseum. It also represented the earliest in a season that a game in Oakland had ever been called because of rain. Prior to Tuesday, the last rainout in Oakland was on May 5, 1998, against the Tigers.
• Prior to Monday, Indians closer John Axford had allowed at least one run in his first outing of the season in each of the past five years. Axford had an 18.69 ERA in 4 1/3 combined innings in that five-year, first-game sample. The righty turned in a scoreless ninth Monday to earn the save.
• The Indians won the season series against the A's, 5-2, in 2013. Oakland won two out of three at home, but was swept in a four-game set in Cleveland. The A's are 12-13 against the Tribe over the past four years and are 260-228 against the Indians since moving to Oakland in 1968.