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 Tribe's frustration lingers - May 05, 2008

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PostSubject: Tribe's frustration lingers - May 05, 2008   Wed May 07, 2008 1:02 am

Tribe's frustration lingers

Wedge ready to move, but isn't sure what to do with feeble bats

By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sportswriter

Published on Monday, May 05, 2008

CLEVELAND: Major League Baseball is a game of the moment. The operative question by a manager has to be, ''What have you done for me (us) lately?''

Or in the case of Eric Wedge, ''What haven't you done for me lately?'' The Indians' skipper could ask that question to his hitters until his voice resembled the foghorn of a lost ocean liner and the answer would always be the same: Nothing.

Again Sunday, Tribe batsmen might as well have carried garden spades (to dig themselves a deeper hole) to the plate, as they fell to the Kansas City Royals 2-0 at Progressive Field.

Aaron Laffey gave a bravura performance, giving up one unearned run and four hits in seven innings, but the offense supported him and two relievers to the tune of four widely spaced singles.

Pluck any short span of games from the young season, evaluate the attack, and the results are distressingly similar. For example, in the past seven games:

• The Indians have scored an average of 2.4 runs (thanks to an eight-run outburst against the Seattle Mariners).

• Their aggregate batting average is .208.

• They are striking out at the rate of eight times a game, reaching 13 strikeouts twice.

• They have hit two home runs, each with nobody on base.

• They have driven in 35 percent of their runs with something other than a hit (walk, sacrifice fly, wild pitch, ground out).

• Fifteen percent of their hits have been either bloops or infield singles.

• Individually, Jhonny Peralta is batting .048, Asdrubal Cabrera .050, Travis Hafner .100, Casey Blake .125, Ryan Garko .222, David Dellucci .250.

• On the other hand, Jason Michaels is batting .444 (in only nine at-bats), Franklin Gutierrez .333, Grady Sizemore .333 with both home runs and one-third of the club's extra-base hits and Victor Martinez .292.

• Bottom line: The Tribe is 2-5 in this stretch, 14-17 overall and has scored three or fewer runs 16 times, more than 50 percent of the time.

Asked if personnel changes were forthcoming, Wedge said, ''We are right in the middle of evaluating everything. We are looking at everything. We will do whatever we have to do to make adjustments. If we have to look beyond that, we're going to do it.''

By ''look beyond that,'' Wedge was referring to switching players in the lineup, something he already has done without success.

''We're looking at it,'' Wedge said when asked specifically if call-ups were being considered.

Of course, there aren't five or six hitters at Triple-A Buffalo who could make a difference at the major-league level.

At the moment there probably is one, Ben Francisco, who was summoned to Cleveland for four days and sent back April 26 to make room for Jeremy Sowers, who was needed to make a spot start. A player optioned back to Triple-A must remain there for 10 days.


Garko got half of the Tribe's hits on Sunday, which didn't do much good, inasmuch as the club had to wait for eight others to take their turns at the plate before he returned.

Is there anything the players haven't tried yet?

''You can't reinvent the wheel,'' Garko said. ''We all know how to hit, we just have to bear down and do a better job.

''But this game is too hard to expect that we're going to magically turn it around. We have to keep working. And you have to realize that the other pitcher isn't setting the ball up on a tee for us to hit.''

That would please Wedge immensely.

''This is more of an individual battle,'' he said, indicating that not all of his hitters are doing the same things wrong. ''It is individual guys doing individual things.''

The longer such pervasive slumps continue, the more hitters are likely to press and lose confidence. However, Garko wasn't ready to say the Indians are trying too hard.

''It's different for every guy,'' he said. ''You're in the box all by yourself. It's just you and the pitcher. There's nobody else that can affect the at-bat.''

There is one mental exercise that Garko suggests.

''Rather than thinking about ourselves, we should get angry at the pitcher,'' he said. ''Get after the guy who is on the mound.''

As pathetic as the Tribe's attack has been, the club has not played itself into oblivion in the Central Division race. The Minnesota Twins have moved into first place with a 16-14 record with the Chicago White Sox second (14-5) and the Indians third, 21/2 games behind the Twins.

Garko views the standings as the club's silver lining.

''We're still OK,'' he said. ''We're still in it in our division. Nobody else in the division is really doing much. That's the only thing we have to be happy about.''

But Garko and his teammates know that unless they turn their fortunes around, merely hoping for the enemy to fall on their swords isn't likely to keep the Tribe happy.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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