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Betancourt seeks consistency

By Sheldon Published: May 19, 2009

   KANSAS CITY, Mo.: Until last Friday, it appeared that Rafael Betancourt was back to being a late inning reliever on whom the Indians could rely totally. [ep
  Then he gave up one run, one hit and two walks in a 12/3-inning appearance against the Rays at Tropicana Field. [ep
   In his previous five outings, Betancourt had given up runs only once and earned a win by pitching two scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on May 4. [ep
   But the inconsistency that has infected the Tribe bullpen hasn't skipped over Betancourt, who says, ""I have to keep trying, because I feel fine.'' [ep
   Betancourt is trying to stick to basic pitching axioms. [ep
   ""All I'm trying to do is throw strikes,'' he said. ""I think I'm able to locate my pitches better now than last year at this time. [ep
   ""When I do that, I feel like nobody is going to get on base. That's the way I feel, even though I know I'm not going to be perfect. Sometimes I'm going to have to battle to get people out.'' [ep
    Betancourt dominated opposing batters during a sensational 2007 season in which he posted a 5-1 record with three saves and a 1.47 earned-run average as the Tribe's lockdown setup man. He averaged a strikeout an inning -- 80 altogether --and walked only nine in 791/3 innings. [ep
   Hitters only batted .183 against him; he allowed runs in only 13 of his 68 appearances, and he never gave up more than one earned run in any outing. [ep
   But last season Betancourt struggled, especially in the first half. He seemed to throw nothing but fastballs and didn't pitch inside. Things got better in August and September, when he compiled a 3.70 ERA in 23 appearances. [ep
   ""When I had a bad game last year, I'd think about it for two weeks,'' he said. ""It would be like, "What did I do wrong?' I would get it in my head that everything I was doing was wrong. This year, if I have a bad game, I'm thinking that I'll have a good game next time.'' [ep
   Betancourt hasn't fallen into a sustained slump, but he has been erratic enough to post a 4.95 ERA in 18 outings. [ep
   He has pitched on consecutive days four times. Twice on the second day, he gave up a total of five runs, almost half the earned runs (11) he has allowed all season. Nobody knows if this is a key for him, but club officials aren't ruling anything out. [ep
   And regardless of the numbers, Betancourt insists, ""I think this year I'm more relaxed and more confident.'' [ep
   HE'S NO. 2 -- Regular leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore made his first appearance of the season at the No. 2 spot in the Indians' batting order Tuesday night. ¶
   ""I'm just trying to take a little heat off Grady,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ""He's been pushing and pressing, trying to do too much.  We'll have someone else hit first and let Grady see a few pitches. I'm making the switch for him.'' ¶
  Sizemore has been in a slump for most of the season and came into the game batting .220. Not only did he bat behind Asdrubal Cabrera Tuesday night, he got a rest from playing center field as the designated hitter. Ben Francisco took over in center. ¶
  HAFNER UPDATE -- Travis Hafner sat out Monday's game for Columbus, but he had three singles Sunday and is 4-for-12 on his rehab assignment. [ep
  ""He feels pretty good,'' Wedge said. ""He's still trying to work his way back into his swing. He'll play in three of four games into the weekend. That's when we'll take a look at him, after the weekend.'' [ep
   EXPERIMENT OVER -- Hector Rondon will not appear in the Indians' bullpen this year. After throwing twice as a reliever for Akron, Tribe officials decided not to push the idea of converting him from starter to reliever. [ep
   Rondon, the brightest pitching prospect in the upper levels of the Indians' farm system, gave up runs in both his Double-A relief outings. [ep
   LEWIS MOVING UP -- Scott Lewis (strained elbow) is back to throwing long toss from 105 feet and experienced no reversals. He is not eligible to come off the 60-day DL until June 10, but Tribe officials expect him to go on a rehab assignment before that. [ep
   After he began throwing off the mound initially, Lewis suffered a setback more than a week ago and had to begin again after time off. [ep
  FARM FACTS -- Trevor Crowe had three singles and one RBI in Columbus' 4-1 win over Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Michael Aubrey hit his fourth home run of the year. Kirk Saarloos (3-4, 4.41 ERA) gave up one run and six hits in going the distance. *elip Russell Young threw six scoreless innings, allowing seven htis, but Kinston lost 1-0 to Potomac. *elip Abner Abreu homered, singled and drove in three runs, but Lake County lost to Greensboro 6-5. [ep

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