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Cleveland Indians

Lewis turning it around?

By Sheldon Published: June 24, 2009

   PITTSBURGH: For a pitcher, it's all about hitting spots. ¶
   Jensen Lewis might still be the Indians' setup man if he had displayed pinpoint command of the strike zone. ¶
   Instead, Lewis and Rafael Perez both lost their ownership of the eighth inning and have been struggling ever since. ¶
   ""I want to get back to the setup role and be able to get the ball to Kerry (Wood),'' Lewis said on Wednesday. ""But to do that, I have to keep putting zeroes up on the board.'' ¶
   It's not that Lewis has gotten shelled every outing. At times, he has shut down opposing lineups, and on other occasions he has looked like he was throwing batting practice. Especially noticeable were pitches he would deliver down the middle that would land over the fence. ¶
   Lewis has given up more home runs (8) than any pitcher on the staff, save Carl Pavano (11), who has thrown more than twice as many innings going into Wednesday night's game against the Pirates: 812/3 to 37. ¶
   Home runs became Lewis' worst nightmare in mid-April, when the Tribe opened new Yankee Stadium. Twice Lewis became the losing pitcher, giving up a ninth-inning homer to Derek Jeter and a seventh-inning blast to Jorge Posada. ¶
   Neither home run was hit with great authority and both traveled to right field, where it has been acknowledged that the stadium's strong tendency to be a power hitter's paradise is the most pronounced. ¶
   ""It's kind of like two home runs are standing in the way of me having a good year,'' Lewis said. ""Home runs are going to happen. I think I'm doing a better job of keeping the ball down now.'' ¶
    Lewis has been particularly vulnerable to left-handed batters, which figures, since he is a right-hander. Nevertheless, he will have to do better than hold righties to a .365 batting average. ¶
   Batters who hit from the right side have posted a .192 average against Lewis, and there is this difference: He is striking out lefties at the rate of one every seven at-bats and righties at the rate of one every 3.3 at-bats. ¶
   Lewis seemed to find himself in two appearances last weekend in Wrigley Field, delivering three scoreless innngs. ¶
   "´I went back to basics,'' he said. ""I'm staying back behind the ball. And I've had a chance to work on my slider a little more. (Alfonso) Soriano hitting into that double play (Sunday) was kind of a turning point for me with that pitch.'' ¶
   Lewis is keenly aware that he must pitch like he did in Chicago routinely if he is to climb back up the bulpen's pecking order. ¶
   ""We need more consistency from all these guys,'' manager Eric Wedgde said. ""One good outing and one bad outing just doesn't get it done. But Jensen is very capable of helping us.'' ¶
   NEW IN THE PEN -- Whatever the Indians see in Jose Veras, it can't have anything to do with his performances against them this year as a Yankee. ¶
   The Tribe acquired the right-handed reliever Wednesday for cash from New York, which designated him for assignment June 16. ¶
   Veras has pitched against Cleveland three times this year, gving up six runs in four innings and allowing home runs to Jhonny Peralta and Shin-Soo Choo. ¶
   In 25 appearances for the Yankees, Veras, 28, posted a 3-1 record and 5.96 earned-run average, allowing 23 hits and 14 walks. Despite these mediocre numbers, his batting average against was .235. ¶
   ""He had a pretty good year in 2008,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ""He has some experience, and he has a good arm. It's probably been 10 days since he pitched, so we'll keep a close eye on him for awhile.'' ¶
    Last year, Veras was 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 60 appearances. ¶
   MORE MOVES -- Greg Aquino cleared waivers and was outrighted to Columbus after being designated for assignment last Friday. He was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 outings for the Tribe. His downfall was walks: 15 in 16 innings. *elip Former first-round pick Michael Aubrey was traded to the Orioles for a player to be named. Aubrey was batting .292 with five homers, 16 doubles and 29 RBI in 212 at-bats for Columbus. ¶
   SIGNINGS -- The Indians' seventh round selection in the June draft, Jordan Henry, an outfielder from the University of Mississippi, agreed to terms. ¶
   Infielder Casey Frawley, the Tribe's 17th round pick, from Stetson University, and 40th-round choice Greg Folgia, an infielder from the University of Missouri, also signed. ¶
   FARM FACTS -- Jordan Brown hit his ninth home run, singled twice and had four RBI in Columbus' 8-7 win over Rochester. Matt LaPorta had two hits and two RBI. ¶

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