Indians Notebook: Relief pitcher, consistency from hitters; pitching rotation to change; Alomar's ovation; Barfield's new T.
The All-Star break was still a few hours away Sunday morning, but Indians Manager Eric Wedge had already formulated his second-half wish list.
The list wasn’t long. Another relief pitcher who can work in tight games is certainly needed. A little more consistency from some of the team’s primary hitters would be nice. The defense and starting pitching have been decent all summer.
“Overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with the consistency of our ballclub,” Wedge said as the Indians prepared to face Toronto. “We’ve done a good job of being a solid team in all areas.”
There is never much to complain about when a team has spent nearly an entire season in first place, tied for first place, or within sight of first place. Wedge wasn’t complaining Sunday, either. Last year at this time, the Tribe was 40-47 and 18 1/2 games out.
Wedge did say he expects the batting order that ranks second in the big leagues in runs scored (5.35 per game) to become even more dangerous as Travis Hafner settles back into form. Hafner hit .228 in May and .218 in June but is at .303 so far in July.
“I believe Travis is a guy who will have a big second half for us,” Wedge said. “Our young outfielders are also further along than they were, and I think Ryan Garko has some upside in the second half.”
Cleveland’s defense ranks in the middle of the American League in both fielding percentage and errors.
“Defensively, we’ve done a better job,” Wedge said. “Some people look strictly at the numbers, but you also have to look at the timing of the plays we’ve made.”
The starting pitching ranks eighth in the league, primarily because Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee have been up-and-down since returning from injuries and Jeremy Sowers struggled before being sent to the minor leagues. Paul Byrd has been good most times out, and C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona have combined for 22 wins.
Cleveland’s relief pitchers have been better than a year ago, but only closer Joe Borowski and setup man Rafael Betancourt have been consistently dependable in tight situations.
“I think we’ve got to continue to look to find somebody to step up in the bullpen,” Wedge said. “It’s a possibility. But, it’s easier said than done.”
COMING UP The Indians will be off for the All-Star break beginning today, then host Kansas City and Chicago in a six-game homestand that begins Friday.
THE NEW ORDER The Indians will modify the setup of their starting pitching rotation when they begin the second half of the season. Jake Westbrook will start Friday, followed by C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Cliff Lee and Paul Byrd. Wedge says this setup allows Sabathia an extra day of rest in the event he pitches during Tuesday’s All-Star Game. It also separates sinkerball pitchers Westbrook and Carmona and left-handers Sabathia and Lee.
CELEBRITY GUEST Former Indians and Blue Jays second baseman Robbie Alomar attended Sunday’s game. When Alomar was shown on the scoreboard video screen, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He retired after the 2004 season and now lives in Florida.
GOOD ITEM Josh Barfield left Toronto with a light blue No. 29 “throwback” jersey that included his father’s name on the back. Jesse Barfield was an outfielder for the Blue Jays.
CALL HIM MR. SUB Indians first baseman Ryan Garko sheepishly accepted a 6-foot-long submarine sandwich before the game as part of a promotion for a local sandwich shop. Garko also had to carry the sandwich back to the clubhouse.
ON THE FARM Jeremy Sowers was charged with five runs over seven innings Saturday during a 6-1 loss to Durham. Sowers is 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA in five starts for the Bisons since being optioned to Buffalo on May 31. “He’s doing the work he needs to do down there, and he’s in a good frame of mind,” Wedge said. “He’s going through things a lot of young pitchers go through.”
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail email@example.com.