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Cleveland Indians

Lots to learn; not much time

By Sheldon Published: August 31, 2009

When a minor-league catcher is called up to the majors for the first time in the middle of a season, it can feel like he's facing a final exam in calculus and doesn't even know the name of the textbook.

That's the position Wyatt Toregas found himself in July 31, when the Indians summoned him from Columbus. All he had to do was learn which pitches all 13 members of the staff liked to throw in various situations, how they liked him to give signs, how to present the target with his glove, where they wanted him to crouch and countless other individual idiosyncracies.

‘‘The first thing he has to do is talk to each guy,'' said Jeff Datz, one of several Tribe coaches who formerly were catchers.‘‘He can't wait until he actually catches a pitcher to start learning all those things.''

Fortunatley for Toregas, he caught several of the club's pitchers in spring training and others at Triple-A, but he still had lotws of work to do.

‘‘I know a lot of these guys,'' Toregas said.‘‘But pitchers are always working on stuff, so you have to make them feel like you're not missing beat.''

There also was at least one pitcher Toregas had never seen.

‘‘The first time I ever saw Chris Perez was when I got called up,'' Toregas said.‘‘He wasn't with us in spring training, so I didn't know him. As for our starters, I became the guy who caught them on their side days.''

It was easier to familiarize himself with the starters, because they stay on the same routine. Relievers don't necessarily throw bullpens, because they never know when they're going to pitch for real.

Even so, it didn't take Toregas long to get an initial read on the entire staff.

‘‘In a week and a half, I got a feel for everybody on the staff,'' he said.‘‘I even caught the bullpen guys two or three times in about 10 days.''

The diligence paid off. Toregas has committed no major gaffes bedhind the plate, and in a short period of time has worked himself into position to contend for a roster spot next spring.

WHO'S COMING? -- Aside from Carlos Carrasco, who will start tonight against the Tigers, few Columbus Clippers are expected to receive September callups.

More than likely, one other player will be summoned today: catcher Lou Marson, who probably will have the opportunity to be the Tribe's everyday catcher next year.

When the Clippers' season is over on Monday, a few other players might be asked to join the big league team:

(bullet) Jordan Brown has had an outstanding season, but he plays first base and left field, where he would collide with Matt LaPorta and Andy Marte, two players Indians deep thinkers want to continue to watch. Brown also is coming off a minor shoulder injury.

(bullet) Middle infielder Jason Donald is batting only .239 at Triple-A, but he will be a candidate to win a utility infield job next year. The problem is he has recently been slowed by back spasms.

(bullet) Outfielder Michael Brantley, third baseman Wes Hodges and right-hander Hector Rondon are only longshots.

Finding playing time would be an issue with Brantley; Hodges missed almost half a season with a wrist injury, and Rondon's relative inexperience (compared with Carrasco's) probably will keep him from being invited to Cleveland.

IS IT THE COACHING? -- Andy Marte's 10-game hitting streak came to an end Sunday, but will he start another?

After several big-league trials that ended in failure, Marte suddenly became a lethal hitter, possibly because of advice given him by hitting coach Derek Shelton.

‘‘Both Andy and Matt (LaPorta) have been working with Derek and have made subtle adjustments,'' manager Eric Wedge said.‘‘Of course, getting regular playing time helps, too.''

LaPorta's 10-game hitting streak also ended Sunday.

FARM FACTS -- Ole Sheldon had two hits and one RBI, but Kinston lost 7-5 to Potomac. *elip T.J. McFarland (9-4, 3.47 ERA) gave up one run and three hits in 51/3 innings, as Lake County defeated Lakewood 8-2. Bo Greenwell had two hits, including a home run, and two RBI, and Jeremie Tice and a double and single and one RBI.

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