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Cleveland Indians

Searching for answers

By Sheldon Published: April 21, 2009

Rafael Perez is lugging around a 16.71 ERA and has made just one praiseworthy appearance in seven outings.

Jensen Lewis has pitched six times and given up four home runs and four walks in 6j innings; two of the longballs were lethal to the Indians' chances of sweeping the New York Yankees last weekend, a series that ended in a 2-2 split.

Perez and Lewis were expected to be lockdown co-setup men, but their malfeasance has blown a big hole in the Tribe bullpen. Perez's problems seem the more serious.

‘‘The ball is not coming out of his hand well, and he doesn't have the same command or the same life on his pitches,’’ Indians manager Eric Wedge said on Monday.

In other words, there isn't much that Perez is doing right, and the root of his problem is not readily apparent.

‘‘We'll try to get him work on the side and see if we can help him out a little,’’ Wedge said. ‘‘But it's tough to get bullpen guys extra work, because we might need him in a game.’’

On the other hand, it will be awhile before Perez is asked to pitch in the eighth inning of a tight game.

‘‘We're going to have to do that,’’ said Wedge, when asked if he would keep Perez out of those situations. ‘‘I think Perez can get it back fairly quickly, but you can never put a timetable on it.’’

Lewis has done almost as much good pitching as bad, but the home run ball and inconsistent command have been his undoing.

‘‘Jensen is a little different,’’ Wedge said. ‘‘He's throwing the ball very well, but there are times he's missed his spot and given up the big ball.''

Lewis gave up two 330-foot home runs at Yankee Stadium and complained that they would have been outs at any other ballpark in the country. Wedge understands Lewis' point and might agree, but he takes a little different view.

‘‘You're still putting the baseball in a position where it can do some damage,’’ he said. ‘‘I understand that those balls didn't leave the park by much, but we hit a couple of those ourselves.’’

With his regular setup men struggling, who will hold leads in the eighth inning?

‘‘We'll have to go by feel,’’ Wedge said. ‘‘We'll give other guys opportunities.’’

At the moment, Tribe officials will refrain from reaching down to Triple-A Columbus for help.

‘‘We're taking a look at everything,’’ Wedge said. ‘‘But it's tough to do that this early in the season, because those guys don't have much of a track record yet.’’

GIVE HIM TIME -- Shin-Soo Choo has had a few problems tracking balls in the outfield, most recently on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, when he said he lost a ball in the sun that fell near the left-field foul line for a three-run double. In the same game, New York Yankees third baseman Cody Ransom let drop a similar pop fly.

‘‘I think this is about Choo suffering from a lack of repetition because of the WBC,’’ Wedge said. ‘‘He's a good outfielder, but he's made a few mistakes.’’

GOOD RIDDANCE -- Wedge is happy to be done for the season with two hitter-friendly ballparks: Yankee Stadium and The Ballpark in Arlington.

‘‘I'm glad those parks are in our rear view mirror,’’ he said. ‘‘That's one positive in playing at those places early.’’

The Tribe split four games in New York but outscored the Yankees 40-19 but managed only a 2-2 split; the Rangers swept the three games in Texas, outscoring the Indians 29-13.

RADIO DAZE -- Because of conflicts with Cavaliers playoff games, the following Tribe broadcasts will be moved from WTAM (1100 AM) to WMMS (100.7 FM): Friday night and Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins.

FARM FACTS -- David Huff gave up two runs and four hits in six innings, but was not involved in the decision, as Buffalo lost 7-6 to Louisville in Class AAA. Jordan Brown doubled, singled and drove in a run. David Dellucci began his 20-day rehabilitation assignment by going 1-for-4. . . . Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps, Tim Fedroff and Ronald Rivas each had three hits, and Rivas drove in three runs, as Kinston beat Myrtle Beach 16-3 in Class A. Jeanmar Gomez (1-2, 3.71 ERA) gave up one unearned run and two hits in six innings. . . . Joe Mahalic worked five shutout innings, allowing two hits in Lake County's 2-0 win over Lakewood in Class A.

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