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Cleveland Indians

Growing pains making winning tougher

By Sheldon Published: September 22, 2009

CLEVELAND: Lots of attention has been paid to the Indians' novices lately,mostly because there are so many of them in the lineup or on the mound.


Manager Eric Wedge has cited the team's inexpierience as a cause of several breakdowns during the Tribe's recent skid -- 17 losses in 20 games -- heading into Tuesday night's game against the Tigers.


Asked what he is hoping to see in the last 13 games of the season, Wedge said, ""I want us to play clean baseball and make better decisions on the field. We've made so many youthful mistakes.''


Wedge went on to address the pitching and defense.


""I hope to see us get better on the mound with our pitchers being more aggressive. At the plate, I want us to make better outs and have better at-bats. I've saidc all this before, but this is where we've been lacking.


Unfortunately for the Indians, a winning environment has been more difficult to attain because so many young players are playing so many innings.


""Most definitely,'' Wedge said. ""If you just have a couple of newcomers and more veterans, the young guys will have more experience around them and won't become so exposed. But with our situation, these guys are getting a crash course. But we still will be able to see where everybody is and have something work off of.''


Obviously, some of the rookies have thrived. Matt LaPorta, for example, has shown vast improvement in his second big-league stint that began Aug.19, compared to his first three weeks in the big leagues in May.


Michael Brantley has shown that he is still a rookie as a base stealer, but he has adapted quickly to major-league pitching. Both players surely will have to make adjustments next year, because rival scouts will have gotten a line on them, but so far they look like the real deal.


Asked who has made the most improvement, Wedge said, ""I'm not going to single anyone out, but I'll tell you a pitcher who has moved up in a natural path.


""Tony Sipp has had his ups and downs, but he has worked his way to the back of the bullpen for us. He still has a lot to learn, but he's doing a good job.''


Sipp made his big-league debut April 22, having completed the long road back from elbow surgery in 2007. He was sent back to Columbus in mid-May and recalled June 1 but not for the last time. He was optioned to Triple-A again but returned to Cleveland for good on June 23. Since then he has posted a 3.29 earned-run average in 32 appearances (271/3 innings).


UNHAPPY SURPRISE -- The American League Central Division is being panned as the worst in the majors, with the first-place Tigers only nine games over .500 going into Tuesday night's game at Progressive Field.


Manager Eric Wedge was asked if he thought the division had underachieved?


""I think everybody would feel that way,'' he said. ""I think we all feel like we can be better, that we should have been better.


""I don't think anyone would have anticipated where the division is right now.''


LONG, LONG SEASON -- Each member of the Tribe's rotation will have no more than two starts before the season ends. That's probably a good thing, because fatigue might be setting in.


""I feel like we have two or three guys who are in uncharted territory,'' said Wedge, but refused to name names.""The physical part is one thing, but the mental gring is also real.''


SWITCHEROO -- Michael Brantley moved from center to left, and Trevor Crowe, who usually is in left, moved to center Tuesday night.


""I want those guys to get experience playing both positions,'' Wedge said. ""We might keep it this way for a couple of games then switch it back.''


When Grady Sizemore returns next year, after recuperating from two operations, he will go back to his regular slot in center, and both Brantley and Crowe (if both make the team) primarily will be left fielders.


SOCIAL NOTE -- Columbus manager Torey Lovullo, who was summoned to Cleveland after the Triple-A season, has left the Tribe to get married in California, his home state. Taking his place will be Akron skipper Mike Sarbaugh.


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