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Cleveland Indians

Aubrey making most of his chance

By Sheldon Published: September 27, 2009

CLEVELAND: At 27, Michael Aubrey finally has begun a major-league career that was stalled for years by injury.

Aubrey was the Indians first-round draft pick in 2003 but spent most of his first five years as a professional rehabbing injuries: a strained quad in 2003, hamstring strain in 2004, stress fracture in his back in 2005, strained knee in 2006 and hamstring and abdominal strains in 2007.

That didn't leave much time to play the game, and Aubrey didn't. Others in the Tribe organization began to pass him by, even though Aubrey hit at every level and was a solid defensive first baseman.

With Matt LaPorta and Beau Mills in the pipeline, the Indians traded Aubrey to the Orioles in June, and he was summoned to the big leagues in August. Since then, he has made the most of his promotion, batting .3xx (20-for-59) with six doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 24 games.

In the weekend series against his old team, Aubrey also has shined, going 4-for-7 with one double, one homer and one RBI.

Standing in the visitors clubhouse at Progressive Field, Aubrey recalled which locker he was assigned to during the Indians' winter instructional program in 2006.

""I think it snowed 25 of the 30 days,''' he said with a smile. ""The classroom stuff was good, but I probably would have gotten more out of it if we could have gotten outside.''

It's always an emotional jolt when a player is traded for the first time, no less so for Aubrey.

""I had mixed feelings when I was traded,'' he said. ""Cleveland was my first organization. I had so many friendships here. The coaches, the front office were all good to me.

""But I didn't think I would get much of an opportunity, so I was grateful to get a new start. Early in the season, when I was in Columbus, a couple of guys got called up. I was performing, too, and I realized it was not about performance.''

Aside from his years-long inability to avoid injuries, the knock on Aubrey was his relative lack of power for a player who plays a corner position.

""I don't see much power there, but he's a bat to ball guy and can handle himself at first base,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ""His biggest issue by far is being able to stay healthy.''

Nobody knows that more than Aubrey.

""You don't realize how thankful you should be for staying healthy,'' he said. ""Guys who don't get hurt don't understand what it's like (to be injured often).''

Aubrey's transition to the majors has been relatively smooth.

""It's all about making adjustments on the fly,'' he said. ""Fortunately, I've been able to do that.''

SHUT DOWN -- Joe Smith will not return to pitch the last week of the season.

""He can pitch, but he can't move around very well,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ""So I don't think he'll be back this year.''

Smith said his sprained left knee remains a problem and that the Tribe medical staff will determine today whether they should examine him further for possible treatment.

LAST START -- Wedge said he didn't know if David Huff would make his last start, but Huff seemed more definitive.

""I don't think I'm going to get another start,'' he said. ""But they said I might work out of the bullpen for a couple of innings. That would be awesome, Maybe I'd get to pitch in Fenway over the weekend.''

Weeks ago Wedge said he wanted to limit Huff's work load to between 160-170 innings for the season. Including time spent in Triple-A, Huff has pitched 1672/3 innings.

DAY OFF -- Michael Brantley was held out of Sunday's game with a sore right ankle.

""We were able to use him last night, but he still feels it,'' Wedge said. ""Hopefully, he can come back tomorrow.''

Brantley entered in the seventh inning Saturday night as a pinch hitter and stayed in the game to play left field.

OTHER STUFF -- The Indians' three-game sweep was the first over the Orioles in Cleveland since Aug. 19-21, 2005. *elip David Huff's 11 wins are the most by a Tribe rookie since C.C. Sabathia won 17 in 2001. *elip The six runs in the first inning are the most by the Indians in the opening inning since May 10, 2008.

AWARD WINNERS -- The Tribe has made its internal awards to minor league players who have excelled at pitch recognition and patience at the plate.

The awards are divided into three categories. In hard hit percentage, the winner was Akron catcher Carlos Santana; in walk percentage, Akron outfielder Nick Weglarz prevailed, and Santana had the highest on-base percentage.

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