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Cleveland Indians

Rookie mistakes unavoidable

By Sheldon Published: September 17, 2009

OAKLAND: Rookies wear big-league uniforms, but they aren't fully-formed major leaguers. ¶
Nobody is more aware of that than manager Eric Wedge, whose young Indians tested his patience during the three-game series (all losses) against the Twins that concluded Wednesday at the Metrodome. [ep
Before Tuesday night's game, Wedge presided over a team meeting, explaining afterward, ""There were a few things I wasn't crazy about. We have a lot of young people here. I want to make sure they know how we go about things.'' [ep
After a loss the next night, Wedge blamed bad decisions for costing the club two or three runs. ¶
Unfortunately, it takes time for novices to become veterans. And it's difficult to rush the process. ¶
""Sometimes you give them a pat on the butt,'' the manager said, ""and sometimes you give them a kick in the butt, whatever you have to do to help them get better. ¶
""Consistency is the key. Nothing is more important. The game is much faster up here than in the minors. You have to make decisions quickly. To do that, you have to prepare. You can't be thinking about it in real time and then saying go.'' ¶
Even a couple of months can make a noticeable difference in a novice player's performance. Matt LaPorta doesn't look like the same player now as he did in his first 31/2-week stint with the Tribe in May. ¶
Improvement is based primarily on repetition and receiving advice from the manager and coaching staff. But Wedge feels the most effective guidance can come from teammates. ¶
""We don't have a large number of veterans,'' Wedge said. ""But Jamey (Carroll) will pull somebody aside, so will Kerry Wood and Travis Hafner. That is very appreciated. I'm a very big believer in one player doing something for another player.'' ¶
Carroll said he has not always felt comfortable correcting another player. ¶
""But moreso this year than any other,'' he said. ""I always looked at myself as the 25th guy on the roster, someone who was just happy to be here.'' ¶
But in his two years with Cleveland, Carroll has become a valuable piece of the puzzle, moreso than most utility players. ¶
""If' I'm around certain situations, I might offer up something,'' he said. ""Most of the time, some coach will beat me to it. Even then, I might come up afterward and say something. I always did things by observing, so this was kind of new to me.'' ¶
There have been veteran players who have taken it upon themselves to mentor a particular rookie. Former Tribe designated hitter Ellis Burks once bought C.C. Sabathia a suit. Later, Sabathia did the same for a newcomer. ¶
""Bartolo Colon bought me a couple of suits,'' Carroll said. ""So did Michael Barrett. I think with Bartolo it was more a thing that me and Endy Chavez got called up when he won 20 games, 10 in one league and 10 in the other.'' ¶
That was in 2002, when Colon was traded by the Tribe to the Expos. ¶
Players don't have to criticize one another to make a point. When two young players become buddies, the interaction can serve to make both more adept on the field. ¶
Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena have that kind of rapport, and they play next to each other, Cabrera at shortstop, Valbuena at second. ¶
""If two guys are hanging out together, the conversation is going to be about baseball, either at the ballpark or somewhere else,'' Wedge said. ""When guys like that have a great relationship, you can see it on the field.'' ¶
SPREADING THE WEALTH -- Since being called up from Columbus Aug. 19, Matt LaPorta has hit five home runs, the first three to left, the last two to center. ¶
What difference does it make which direction the ball goes as long as it leaves the ballpark? Throughout LaPorta's minor-league career, his power was as a pull hitter to left. That might be changing. ¶
""I think in all my time in the minors, I hit about three balls to right,'' he said. '""So one thing I've worked on is going the other way. For awhile, I really scuffled trying to do it. I used to be more of a guider. But something clicked, and now I can drive the ball to all fields.'' ¶
OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ASDRUBAL -- Asdrubal Cabrera did not need an X-ray after he fouled a ball of his knee Wednesday. ¶
He has a bruise that kept him out of the lineup Thursday night, but Manager Eric Wedge felt he might play tonight. ¶
""He probably needs a day,'' Wedge said. ""He's OK, though. We'll keep him off his feet as much as we can today and hope he plays tomorrow.'' ¶
TIME MACHINE NEEDED? -- It's been 17 months since the Indians played a series in Oakland, dating to April 4-6, 2008. ¶
""That's something we're becoming accustomed to,'' Wedge said. ""With the unbalanced schedule and interleague play, it doesn't surprise anybody when you haven't been to a particular ballpark or play a team in a long time. ¶
""Our team has turned over, their team has turned over. That's what happens when you're not playing particularly well. That's why you have to do extra preparation.'' ¶
PLAYOFF UPDATE -- Clayton Cook allowed only one run and four hits in five innings, but Mahoning Valley lost the final game of the best-of-three New York-Penn League finals 5-2 to Staten Island. Rafael Vera tripled and drove in a run. ¶


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