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Cleveland Indians

Laffey mastering new job

By Sheldon Published: May 22, 2009

   CINCINNATI: The job was new to Aaron Laffey, and he didn't know if the library had a volume that could help him become an effective relief pitcher. ¶
   So he observed, he asked his Indians teammates, he used the experience of being a major-league starter. Heading into Friday night's game against the Reds, Laffey had made five appearances out of the bullpen and posted a 1-0 record with one save and a 2.45 earned-run average in 11 innings. ¶
   Until May 6, Laffey did not really know what it was like to watch a game from the bullpen. But he has used that vantage point to further his education. ¶
   ""When you're in our bullpen (behind the center field fence at Progressive Field), you see the game from the pitcher's perspective,'' he said. ""I see the hitters from the front and the pitcher from the back. It helps from a pitcher's viewpoint.'' ¶
   As a starter who worked every fifth day, Laffey did not have to pay rapt attention to every pitch. ¶
    ""You watch every pitch as a reliever,'' he said. ""You're going to be in it. You absolutely might be facing every one of the guys you're watching.'' ¶
   Laffey is fortunate that he doesn't need 75 warmup pitches to get his arm loose. Even as a starter, he threw only 30 pitches before a game. ¶
   ""When I warm up, I try to throw the ball through the catcher not to him,'' he said. ""After I throw 10 to15 pitches quickly, I go through my normal routine.'' ¶
   The mindset of a reliever differs from that of a starter, who usually has at least a little time to work his way mentally into the action. A reliever, on the other hand, must be at the top of his game immediately, especially if runners are on base. ¶
   ""If I start a game, I still attack the hitters,'' Laffey said. ""But if I'm out there in relief, it's a dog fight right away. It's like there's more on the line, more intensity. ¶
   ""It's fun. When the bullpen phone rings, you get a rush; you're heart starts beating faster. You kind of go from a complete dormant state to being lit up, and the adrenalin starts pumping.'' ¶
   On the other hand, everything becomes at least a little mundane after awhile. ¶
   ""The difference being a reliever is that instead of sitting down in the dugout when the game starts, I go out to the bullpen,'' Laffey said. ""And because I have to be ready to pitch every night, I have to wear full game attire instead of going out in tennis shoes.'' ¶
   BACK IN CENTER -- After spending three games as a designated hitter because of minor elbow soreness, Grady Sizemore was back in center field Friday night. ¶
   ""He definitely felt better today,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ¶
   The other notable lineup change involved Jhonny Peralta. Just when it looked like he would remain at third base, Wedge moved him back to shortstop. ¶
   ""With no DH in this park, I wanted to try and get Ryan Garko in there,'' he manager said. ""I also wanted to get Jhonny and Asdrubal (Cabrera) in the lineup. It came down to a choice between Garko and (Luis) Valbuena.'' ¶
   With Peralta at short, Mark DeRosa played third. ¶
   MAKING PROGRESS -- Shin-Soo Choo knows he's making progress in hitting left-handers. ¶
   ""I'm a lot more comfortable against them this year,'' he said. ""Last year I would look in the dugout, because maybe they want to send up a pinch hitter. This year, no.'' ¶
   Choo is batting only .214 agsainst lefties in 42 at-bats, but of his nine hits, two are doubles and two are home runs. ¶
   GAIN, NO PAIN -- Joe Smith (right rotator cuff strain) took one more step toward getting off the DL by throwing a bullpen Thursday and playing catch Friday. ¶
   ""I threw 30 pitches in the bullpen and I'll have another one Saturday,'' Smith said. ""I'm hoping to go on rehab some time next week.'' ¶
   According to Wedge, ""We'll get some hitters in there against him when we get home, then we'll send him out.'' ¶
   FARM FACTS -- Travis Hafner doubled, singled twice and drove in three runs, as Columbus defeated Buffalo 6-4. Trevor Crowe had four hits, including a double, and Zach Jackson (3-2, 3.09 ERA) gave up three unearned runs in six innings. Rafael Perez made his fifth Triple-A appearance and pitched one scoreless inning, allowing two hits. He has yet to allow a run in six innings. *elip Delvi Cid had three hits and raised his average to .371 in Lake County's 8-2 loss to Greensboro. ¶

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