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Cleveland Indians

Wedge holds early team meeting

By Sheldon Published: April 15, 2009

Indians officials did not send an advisory to the Guinness Book of World Records, but when manager Eric Wedge addressed his troops after only eight games Tuesday night it might have established an American League mark, at the very least.

But there was no use waiting around, inasmuch as the Tribe had only one win.

"I talked to these guys after the game,'' Wedge said on Wednesday. ""They have to get back on track and think that good things are going to happen.''

Wedge sensed that persistent losing -- especially Tuesday night's 9-3 defeat to the Royals --  was beginning to play on their psyches.

""I felt like yesterday's game really beat them up pretty good,'' he said. ""I want them to have as much confidence in themselves as I do in them.''

Wedge is paid to maintain an air of confidence, which is supposed to spread to his players. But the manager seems genuinely positive about the team, regardless of its horrid start. So the theme of his late-night meeting was not to scold but to offer encouragement.

""The effort, the energy and the attitude are all there,'' Wedge said. ""Nobody is more upset and frustrated than they are, and we as a staff have to help them get the right mind-set.''

That said, there are real problems to resolve.

""There are three areas we need to address,'' Wedge said. ""We need better starting pitching; we've got to start making plays, and we need to do a better job with runners in scoring position.''

Wedge used Jhonny Peralta's RBI bloop single Tuesday night as an example of how to be more productive with runners on second or third.

""It's more of a mind-set than anything,'' he said. ""If we just put the ball in play regularly (with runners in scoring position), we'd be in a lot better shape right now.''

The Indians will open the new Yankee Stadium this afternoon, which is regarded as a historic event not only in New York but throughout baseball. But all of that is far from Wedge's thoughts.

""You know I'm always focused on today, anyway,'' he said. ""And the way things are now, tomorrow is about a week away as far as I'm concerned.''

TREAT FOR DAD -- Jamey Carroll won't play for at least another 10 days to two weeks, having broken a finger on his left hand.

But his father, Larry, will still get his long-awaited trip to New York for the opening of Yankee Stadium today.

""He's really excited but he's scared to death, too, because he's never been to New York,'' Jamey Carroll said. ""I told him he couldn't back out this time.''

Living in Evansville, Ind., a three-hour drive from Cincinnati, the Carrolls naturally became Reds fans. But Larry also had a special interest in the Yankees, because former first baseman Don Mattingly, a longtime favorite among partisans of the Bronx Bombers, is a native of Evansville and still lives there.

THE PEREZ PROBLEM -- Rafael Perez was regarded as a lock to be a dominating late-inning reliever this year, but so far he has given up 10 earned runs in five innings, making it difficult to manage the bullpen.

""Rafael Betancourt is getting better, and Jensen Lewis has been very good,'' Wedge said Wednesday. ""Masa (Kobayashi) is starting to earn more credibility. So I will look at each situation and pick a guy.''

And what about Perez?

""He's not the best cold weather pitcher, but he has to get beyond that,'' Wedge said. ""His arm isn't working real good, and he's getting pitches up. He'll be OK sooner or later, but we need it to be sooner. In the meantime, we'll have to use other guys in situations he would have been in.''   

HEADLINE NEWS -- CC Sabathia talked to Yankees PR staff Wednesday about today's start against his former teammates.

""It’s going to be—I guess a little weird -- it being my first start at the new stadium and it coming against the Indians,'' he said. ""But I’m excited, and hopefully it will be a good game. I guess it does add a little something to tomorrow, but I haven’t really given it too much thought.

""Me getting traded in the middle of last year and everything else going on. It’s just kind of ironic that it does come against those guys.”

Sabathia will go down in history as the starter who opened the new , $1.5 billion Yankee Staidium.

""I’m excited,'' he said. ""It’s going to be a day and a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. My son is five and he’ll be able to tell his kids and things like that about him going to the park for the first time.''

HONORING JACKIE -- Wednesday was Jackie Robinson Day in the majors. And in honor of the first black player to make it to the big leagues, every player in every game wore No. 42, Robinson's old number.

""What he did wasn't just for baseball but something for the whole society,'' Wedge said. ""You're talking about American history not just baseball history.''

FARM FACTS -- Michael Aubrey doubled twice and singled twice, driving in two runs, but Columbus lost 13-6 to Indianapolis. Wes Hodges had two doubles and a single, driving in one run, and Stephen Head homered. ... Kelvin De La Cruz (2-0, 1.50 ERA) worked six scoreless innings, allowing four hits, walking none and striking out nine, as Kinston defeated Wilmington 1-0.

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