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Cleveland Indians

Wedge issues for Tribe manager

By Sheldon Published: June 16, 2009

CLEVELAND: Manager Eric Wedge doesn't mind identifying two aspects of the Indians' game that cause a spike in his blood pressure: walks and strikeouts.

Only one American League team's pitchers have issued more walks per game than the Tribe. The Yankee staff has walked an average of 3.97 batters per game, the Indians 3.95.

Among the league's rankings in strikeouts, Tribe batters have succumbed an average of 7.9 times per game; the Rangers are the only club that is worse, averaging 8.1.

Wedge's complaints are more specific than his team's overall strikeout rate. He is much more concerned when one of his hitters whiffs with a runner on third and less than two outs.

The topic of walks was a natural outgrowth of Monday night's 14-12 loss to the Brewers, because relievers Luis Vizcaino, Matt Herges and Rafael Perez walked four batters in Milwaukee's six-run eighth inning.

"Just because one guy struggles doesn't mean the next guy has to,'' Wedge said. ""That's why you bring in the next guy.''

Wedge talked aboutthe necessity of a succeeding pitcher ""separating'' from the previous pitcher's performance, and that sometimes the same sorry pattern continues even when the manager changes pitchers.

"I think it's more mental than anything,'' the manager said. ""It think it's the same way (striking out) with a runner in scoring position. It's a mindset.  If a pitcher doesn't get strike one, then he needs to get the next pitch over and even the count at 1-and-1.''

Did Wedge means that a pitcher can ""catch'' the disease of poor command from his predeccesor on the mound?

"I think it can be that way, like last night,'' the manager said. ""I don't think overall that's what the problem has been. But how many times have you seen Matt Herges come into a game and walk the first batter on four pitches? That's the greatest example (of wildness being catching).''

After Vizcaino walked two batters in a row in the eighth, Herges relieved him and walked the next batter. Before Monday night, Herges had walked only four in 18 2/3 innings.

It's not as if Wedge hasn't addressed the importance of making contact with runners on third (or second) or of keeping batters from getting a free pass to first base.

"I've talked to (hitting coach) Derek Shelton and (pitching coach) Carl Willis; they've talked to the players,'' Wedge said. ""And I've also talked to the players.

"I mean, you either do it or you don't. Nobody cares how you feel. I'm just tired of watching it.''

JHONNY BE GOOD -- Jhonny Peralta remains mired in a slump (.143 the past 10 games) that has plagued him off and on most of the season.

Wedge said it's time for Peralta to take charge of his own at-bats.

"He's fine (physically), but he has to get his head on straight,'' Wedge said. ""He can't keep trying to jerk (pull) the ball. He's no longer a baby. He's been here five or six years.

"He can drive the ball as well as anybody (to the opposite field) when he's going good. He's going to have to figure it out. This is the big leagues. I just don't want to keep saying the same thing day after day.''

Not surprisingly, Peralta sat on the bench Tuesday night.

NEXT TEST -- Jake Westbrook (Tommy John surgery) will throw a bullpen today then the Tribe medical staff will decide if he returns to his rehab assignment.

"Jake was progressing through rehab without a hitch, so we want to be as cautious as possible,'' head trainer Lonnie Soloff said of pain in Wedge's elbow after his last start at Akron. But this kind of soreness can be normal.''

TITLE BELT AT STAKE -- Jerry Lawler, one of the on-air voices of the WWE, has been a periodic visitor to Progressive Field for several years.

Tuesday he brought with him an authentic WWE World Championship belt. But there was one variation from the norm: This belt was inscribed with the word Indians.

"They're going to be a contest,'' Lawler said. "Travis Hafner will pick the player of the game every day, and the guy who has the most when the season is over gets to keep the belt.''

Does that mean Hafner can vote for himself?

"I'm not going to pick the guy,'' Hafner said, denying Lawler's explanation. ""We're going to have a team vote.''

INJURY UPDATES -- If Grady Sizemore (inflammation of the lining of the elbow) suffers no setbacks playing catch and swinging a bat the next day or two, he will progress to taking batting practice at Wrigley Field in Chicago over the weekend. He also will make throws from the outfield... Rafael Betancourt (groin strain) began playing catch Monday and will play long toss the rest of the week. If all goes well, he will start throwing off a mound next week.

NEW AT THE TOP -- With Jamey Carroll needing a rest, Wedge installed rookie Luis Valbuena in the leadoff spot Tuesday night.

"I didn't want to go to  Ben (Francisco), who's been struggling,'' Wedge said. ""I didn't look at the numbers, but Valbuena has been hitting some balls hard and not getting anything for them, and he's put up some pretty good at-bats.''

FARM FACTS -- Eric Berger (4-5, 2.33 ERA) gave up only two runs (one earned) in five innings, but Kinston lost 8-1 to Salem... Abner Abreu doubled twice, singled and drove in one run, as Lake County beat Hagerstown. Alexander Perez (5-2, 2.88 ERA) gave up one run in six innings.

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