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Published: 5/2/2003

Struggling Indians anxious to start new month

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

CLEVELAND - A lot was on the line last night as the Cleveland Indians made preparations to close out a three-game series at Jacobs Field with the World Series champion Anaheim Angels. The game was washed out by a steady rain, and will likely be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader in August.

Despite the fact it is just the first of May, the Tribe had plenty to play for. Eight straight losses and a 7-20 start have the Indians owning the second-worst record in the major leagues, and has them teetering on the brink of historic folly. The Tribe was more than ready to take the field last night to try and shake that monkey off its back.

“It's a new month,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said, “and this team went through a lot last month, and we learned from it. I think we're all anxious to play and get back on track. It's time to take the next step. I promise you, we will get this thing turned around.”

April was harsh on Cleveland - the Tribe endured its worst month since the 1969 season.

Cleveland is off to its worst start since that 1969 season when the Indians opened 6-21. The Tribe has lost eight straight games, and since starting the season 2-1, Cleveland has gone 5-19. Cleveland is 2-12 over its last 14 games. In all of the major leagues, only the lowly Detroit Tigers, at 3-23, have a worse record.

“There's a lot of little things that have contributed to where we are. We haven't come up with the big hit, or taken a tough pitch when we had to,” Wedge said.

The Indians have not lost nine straight games since June of 1979 when they dropped 10 in a row.

ELDER UP: The Indians made a move to bolster their bullpen, calling up right-handed reliever Dave Elder from Triple-A Buffalo. Throughout spring training and the early part of the season, Elder has not allowed a run.

Elder, who limited Triple-A hitters to a .122 average (5-for-41), expects to work late in the game for the Indians, but not as a closer. His six saves in Buffalo tied him for second among International League relievers.

“I just plan to go out and help in the bullpen and do what I can,” Elder said. “I see my job as coming in and to keep leads and keep games close, and get wins for our starters.”

Asked to explain the fact he has been virtually unhittable so far this season, Elder credited the weather for playing role in his success. Right-handed hitters are hitting just .087 against him (2-for-23).

“It's been cold up in Buffalo, and I think the hitters have been a little slow to react to the ball. Once the weather gets warmer, I think it's going to be a little more even playing field out there.”

To make room on the roster, Cleveland outrighted right-handed pitcher Aaron Myette to Buffalo.

DISAPPOINTED FOLLOWING: Cleveland outfielder Jody Gerut took some heat from his friends when last night's game was called off. Seems they made a long trip, waited an hour in the rain, and never got to see him play.

“I had friends in from Chicago. They drove six hours to get here to see the game,” Gerut said. “Now they're all fussing at me about it being called off. What do they expect me to do about it? It got rained out.”

Gerut, who was called up from Triple-A Buffalo on April 26 to replace Milton Bradley, who went on the disabled list, hit .344 this spring and was batting .277 in Buffalo. Cleveland manager Eric Wedge likes the improvement Gerut has made.

“Jody got much stronger in the off-season, and he had a tremendous spring for us,” Wedge said. “Due to the weather in Buffalo early in the season, he didn't have a chance to play a lot of games, but when he has played he has been a tremendous player for them. We're happy seeing him do what he needs to do.”

Gerut is hitting .294 and was scheduled to start in center field.

700 CLUB: The Tribe has now played 700 regular season games at Jacobs Field, which opened in 1994. Cleveland is 411-289 at The Jake.

BETTER TIMES: On May 1, 1966, Cleveland left-hander Sam McDowell tied a major league record by throwing his second straight one-hitter in a 1-0 win over Chicago.



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