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Cleaning up with Choo BOSTON: In the absence of Travis Hafner, the Indians do not have a prototypical power hitter to fill the cleanup spot. ¶

By Sheldon Published: May 7, 2009

   BOSTON: In the absence of Travis Hafner, the Indians do not have a prototypical power hitter to fill the cleanup spot. ¶
   So manager Eric Wedged looked up and down his bench and decided, ""It's going to be similar to last year. We're better suited to mixing and matching guys in that spot.'' ¶
   Nevertheless, since Hafner went on the disabled list with soreness in his shoulder, Wedge has opted to replace him with Shin-Soo Choo in almost every game. ¶
   An exception was Wednesday night, when Mark DeRosa took over the fourth position in the batting order against knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield. ¶
   The last time Wakefield pitched against the Tribe, on April 27 in Cleveland, Choo was 0-for-1, drew a walk and reached when he was hit by a pitch. ¶
   Otherwise, in 11 games as the cleanup batter (he hit fourth occasionally before Hafner's injury),  Choo has done moderately well, batting .275 with two doubles, six RBI and seven walks, giving him a .396 on-base percentage. Choo has yet to hit a home run from the cleanup spot, but he has a .308 average with runners in scoring position. ¶
  ""Choo has done a pretty good job,'' Wedge said. ""I like the way he hangs in there against left-handers.'' ¶
  What made him pick Choo, other than the fact that someone had to do it? ¶
   ""I used the experience of what he did last year, and how he was swinging this year,'' Wedge said. ¶
   Choo professes not to care where he bats in the lineup as long as he's somewhere in it. ¶
   ""It's nothing different to me,'' he said. ""It's the same batting third, fourth, fifth, sixth, wherever they put me. In the minors, I usually hit third, sometimes even first.'' ¶
   Cleanup batters by definition are under more pressure to perform, because when they step in the box, there often are runners on base, and the cleanup hitter's job is to drive them in. ¶
   ""It doesn't matter about that,'' Choo said. ""One thing, I see more off-speed pitches when I bat cleanup, but in any spot, my goal is to get on base.'' ¶
   When Hafner's weak shoulder forced him out of the lineup for a long stretch of last season, Jhonny Peralta often replaced him in the fourth slot. But Peralta has been fighting a slump. ¶
   ""Jhonny is still working to get himself going,'' Wedge said. ¶
   QUICK TO PREPARE -- One reason Aaron Laffey was picked to pitch in the bullpen is that he doesn't need much time to warm up. ¶
   ""Even as a starter, I only take 30 pitches to get ready,'' he said. ""After 10-15 pitches (Tuesday night), I was ready to go.'' ¶
   That was enough to enable Laffey to pitch three scoreless innings, using only 28 pitches. ¶
    But he was negligent in one area. On the days he pitches, he wears a cross that hangs from a chain given him by his wife. He had no idea he would be pitching Tuesday night, so he left the chain at the hotel. ¶
   ""I was contemplating putting it on,'' Laffey said. ""I will absolutely wear it every day now.'' ¶
   Manager Eric Wedge decided that Laffey needed Wednesday night off after his first regular season relief appearance. ¶
  TAKING A BREAK -- Wedge ordered Grady Sizemore to take the night off. ¶
  ""It's something we talked a few days ago,'' the manager said. ""We're in the middle of 17 in a row, and this gets him off his feet. We want to make sure he stays strong all the way through.'' ¶
   As it happens, Sizemore also is 1-for-9 off Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox starter, whose knuckleball can ruin a batter's swing for several days. ¶
   TO REHAB YOU GO -- Jamey Carroll (fractured hand)  will begin a rehabilitation assignment in Columbus today. ¶
   The plan is for him to play seven innings at second in his first game, DH the second, take a day off on Sunday and play third on Monday. Carroll can spend no more than 20 days on rehab. ¶
  SIX DEGREES (OR MORE) OF SEPARATION -- No surprise that Tribe officials had little comment about Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension for violating baseball's substance abuse policy. ¶
   ""I'd rather stay away from that,'' Wedge said. ""Manny doesn't have anything to do with us, and we don't have anything to do with him.'' ¶
   Earlier in the season, Ramirez, now a Dodger, expressed a desire to finish his career in Cleveland, where it all started for him. It wasn't going to happen then, and it's not going to happen now. ¶
  Wedge managed Ramirez for a few days when he was on a rehab assignment at Akron in 2000. ¶
   BACK IN THE FOLD -- Veteran utility player Tony Graffanino, designated for assignment last Saturday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Columbus Wednesday.    ¶
   RED SOX WOES -- Two big boppers were held out of Boston's lineup because of injury: David Ortiz with a stiff neck and Kevin Youkilis with a strained muscle in his side. ¶
   FARM FACTS -- David Huff  (4-1, 4.05 ERA) had his first troubled start of the season, giving up five runs, four hits and three walks, as Columbus fell to Norfolk 5-2. Wes Hodges had two hits and one RBI. *elip Abner Abreu tripled, singled twice and drove in four runs in Lake County's 14-6 rout of Hickory. Chris Nash doubled twice and drove in five runs. ¶


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