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Shapiro: Hang with us

By Sheldon Published: May 12, 2009

   CLEVELAND: It's one thing if the Indians are a fundamentally sound team going through an extended slump. It's quite another if there are large cracks in the foundation that can't be repaired without major reconstruction. ¶
   So are Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis young relievers likely to bounce back in short order? Is the lineup that looked so pathetically weak in four games against the Tigers and Red Sox fatally flawed? ¶
   ""It starts with being a disappointment,'' General Manager Mark Shapiro said Tuesday. ""Clearly, there's a sense of urgency across the board. The response is it's sa mixture. A lot of our players have track records of consistent success but are performing well below their career averages. We believe in these guys and think they will get it done. ¶
   ""It's important for them to know that we believe in them. We're not going to turn over the whole team. ¶
  On the other hand, the Tribe probably has at least a few players who don't belong in their roles or even in the big leagues. ¶
  ""There are other problems with the club that we don't have answers for,'' Shapiro said. ""So there will be changes.'' ¶
   The bullpen -- specifically the setup tandem of Perez and Lewis -- has been the biggest obstacle to winning. ¶
   ""Probably the biggest blow to us has been Perez and what he's gone through,'' Shapiro said. ¶
   Lewis has given up far too many home runs (6 in 162/3 IP), but he has had several effective outings as well. Perez's struggles have been constant, virtually from Day 1 of the schedule. He is now at Columbus trying to work through his problems. ¶
   Shapiro reiterated the difficulty he would have in making a trade for a viable reliever. ¶
   ""I'm not going to say that I won't make the effort,'' he said. ""But the Aaron Laffey move is the kind of thinking we're going to have to do. That and using free agents (released players) plus our farm system.'' ¶
   In that regard, recently there have been hints that Akron's Hector Rondon, the No. 1 pitching prospect in the upper reaches of the Tribe's farm system, might be headed to the bullpen. ¶
   Shapiro didn't deny it, saying, ""We're open to anything.'' ¶
   Losing record aside, Shapiro thinks the club can pull itself out of the quicksand and contend for the Central Division championship. ¶
   ""In light of our division, yes,'' he said, referring to the fact that no division rival is likely to run away and hide. ""If we had to dig out of a hole and win 95 games, then no, we probably couldn't do that. But we're one streak from getting back into it. I think we're capable of doing that, clearly.'' ¶
   NO COMPLAINTS -- General Manager Mark Shapiro was informed that on Monday, manager Eric Wedge had taken ""total responsibility'' for the Indians' losing record. ¶
  ""Responsibility is across the board,'' Shapiro said. ""It is shared by the players, the coaches, the manager and the front office. But accountability, that only rests with me.'' ¶
   Shapiro did not appear to be unhappy with the job his manager is doing. ¶
   ""I believe that nobody cares more about these players than Eric,'' he said. ""I believe he's making every effort to move us in a positive direction.'' ¶
   Asked if Wedge's job will be on the line if the club is playing losing baseball in June or July, Shapiro said, ""I'm not focusing on June or July but right now.'' ¶
   FLAWED SIGNING -- It appears clear that signing Masa Kobayashi for two years and $6 million was a mistake. ¶
   Shapiro didn't necessarily disagree but said, ""There are signings that work out well and signings that don't work out at all for every team. So I would never characterize one particular signing.'' ¶
   A FIRST AT FIRST -- Matt LaPorta made his big-league debut at first base Tuesday night, and Wedge said it might not be his last appearance there for the outfielder. ¶
   ""He's been working out there,'' Wedge said. ""He's done a lot of extra work with (coach) Luis Rivera, so I want to take a look at him. Even if he's a little rough early, he'll catch on.'' ¶
   Could first become LaPorta's regular position down the road? ¶
   ""It's a possibility,'' Wedge said. ""I wouldn't rule it out, because he's such a good athlete.'' ¶
   Asked about the availability of a first baseman's glove, LaPorta smiled and said, ""It's been sitting there folded up for a couple of years.'' ¶
   ROSTER MOVE -- Jamey Carroll (fractured hand) has been activated from the disabled list and Josh Barfield was optioned to Columbus. ¶
   In three games at Triple-A, where he played on a rehab assignment, Carroll was 3-for-11 with two runs. ¶
   FARM FACTS -- Mike McGuire (3-2, 3.63 ERA) worked five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks, as Lake County beat Kannapolis 1-0. Abner Abreu's second homer of the season accounted for the run. ¶


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