CHICAGO: Jeremy Sowers has presented the Indians with their latest dilemma.
Sowers has consistently breezed through four innings before running into certain trouble in the fifth or sixth inning. Manager Eric Wedge has watched this happen often enough to believe that Sowers is not merely going through a temporary slump.
"We can't have starters who are only going to go five innings,'' he said.
There has been an effort to understand why these things are happening, but there might not be a cure if he remains in the rotation.
"Whether it's going through the lineup again (for the second or third time) or that Jeremy is not quite as sharp in the middle part of the game, whatever the reason,'' Wedge said, adding. ""He also seems to have a livelier fastball earlier.''
Wedge does not think Sowers is ill conditioned or that the problem is strictly in the pitcher's head.
Sowers' latest visit to the dark side occurred Tuesday night against the White Sox. For five innings, he gave up only three hits, Paul Konerko's solo homer the only one that meant anything. But in the sixth, Sowers gave up a one-out double to Alexei Ramirez, a single that moved Ramirez to third and a walk to Jim Thome to load the bases.
At that point, Wedge felt his only option was to summon Chris Perez from the bullpen. Perez responded by giving up a grand slam to Konerko, but that didn't get Sowers off the hook.
Whatever the reason for his middle inning lapses, Wedge and his staff are actively seeking a solution, which might put Sowers' scheduled start against the Tigers on Sunday in jeopardy.
"We're still working through that start,'' the manager said.
The only solution that seems sensible is to move Sowers to the bullpen.
"If somewhere down the road we put Sowers in the bullpen, we would look at him as the first lefty,'' Wedge said. ""The first left-hander is not a matchup guy, but someone who can give us two or three innings and face both left-handed batters and right-handed batters.
"Right now, we're still thinking of Jeremy as a starter, but at some point in time the bullpen is something we would consider.''
The key to that thinking is this: ""Jeremy is consistently good for three or four innings, sometimes up to five,'' Wedge said.
MINOR SETBACK -- Fausto Carmona's last start for Columbus on Sunday apparently looked better in the box score than it was in the flesh.
"The quality of his sinker was not quite as good as in his last start,'' pitching coach Carl Willis said Wednesday. ""Fausto took a little bit of a step back.''
Carmona gave up one run, six hits and a walk in five innings, striking out five.
But, Willis said, ""From a delivery standpoint,'' it was not as good.
That means Carmona will make at least on more Triple-A start on Friday and it could be more.
Asked if Carmona was likely to be called up by the Indians to start the second half, Wedge said, ""It's possible but not likely.''
ANOTHER MOVE -- After his 11/3-inning stint at Columbus Tuesday night, it appears that Rafael Betancourt (strained groin) is headed back to the big leagues.
"We look to have him here tomorrow,'' Wedge said. ""It's not set in stone, but that's the way we're thinking right now.''
SLUMP CONTINUES -- Going into Wednesday night's game against the White Sox, Victor Martinez was batting .078 (4-for-51) in his past 15 games and 1-for-30 in his past nine.
"I thought he swung better in batting practice, and last night the ball came off his bat better,'' Wedge said. ""That's a good sign.''
NO RUSH -- Rafael Perez was sent to Columbus late Tuesday night to make room for Aaron Laffey on the roster, and Perez might be there for awhile, along with Jensen Lewis, who has been trying to work his way back to Cleveland.
"We need to see both of them have some consistency in making pitches and in their command,'' Wedge said. ""Triple-A is where you can get consistent work. There's no timetable for either one of them.''
FARM FACTS -- Michael Brantley had three hits, including a double, and Matt LaPorta had two hits and two RBI in Columbus' 13-6 loss to Indianapolis... Karexon Sanchez and Michael Valadez each homered in Lake County's 4-2 win over Greensboro. Danny Salazar (2-3, 5.00 ERA) allowed one run and three hits in six innings... Greg Folgia had two hits and three RBI in Mahoning Valley's 8-4 win over Auburn...Trent Baker doubled and singled three times, as the Arizona League Indians defeated the Padres 7-4. Jesus Brito hit his third home run of the season and singled.